By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
As far as enduring mysteries go, it may not quite rank up there with the Bermuda Triangle or the Loch Ness Monster.
But the source of the stinky, slimy water that lurks in the gutter on 38th Street between Central and Landis avenues continues to confound Sea Isle City homeowners and government officials.
“It sits there, little by little. It never goes away,” Fred Caspar said while pointing at the fetid puddles of water at the base of the driveways near his house at 137 E. 38th Street.
Hoping to find some answers, Caspar appeared at a City Council meeting in July 2021 to ask Sea Isle officials for help in getting rid of the water. City officials promised in 2021 to investigate.
With the same problem persisting a year later, Caspar showed up at Tuesday’s Council meeting to once again urge city officials to investigate the source of the foul water and remove it.
“We’re just trying to figure out what the water is, where it’s coming from and if it’s toxic,” he told the Council members.
Caspar said that after a hard rain, the water just sits in the gutter “for weeks and weeks.”
City Business Administrator George Savastano said he plans to take a look at the water and try to pinpoint its source. He believes that it may come from an underground stream.
“We’re going to check it out again,” Savastano said in an interview after the Council meeting.
Last year, the neighbors on 38th Street became so frustrated at one point that they had a street cleaner come by to remove the foul water.
But it returned. Caspar explained that it is there every day.
The water didn’t dry up even during the blistering heat wave last week that brought sweltering conditions to Sea Isle and other shore communities.
“It was 90 degrees here and it’s still here. It’s along the curbs and the entrance to the driveways. It even stains the driveways with a brownish-green tint. The street is even cracking and stained,” Caspar said in an interview Tuesday outside his home.
Caspar noted there are days when he wants to remove the paper and other debris floating in the water. However, he often leaves the trash alone out of fear there may be something toxic mixed in with the puddles.
“You try to get the trash out of it, but you don’t know what you’re picking up,” he said.
In addition to the nauseating green tint, the water also has an oily sheen and a stinky odor that suggests it has an unpleasant origin somewhere in Sea Isle.
“It’s got like a sewage kind of smell, a nasty smell,” Caspar said. “There’s a green, algae slime and an oil slick on top of it.”
One unsubstantiated rumor going around the neighborhood is that there may be abandoned railroad tracks buried underneath this section of 38th Street, Caspar said. Old railroad ties coated in creosote could explain why the water has an oily sheen, the neighbors have surmised.
Caspar, who lives in Williamstown, N.J., has had a summer vacation home on 38th Street since 2009. He said the stagnant water started to appear a few years ago after an old house dating to the early 1900s was demolished on 38th Street and replaced with two single-family homes.
“We’re just trying to figure it out,” Caspar said of the mysterious water.
But what he does know is that the water continues to linger in front of his house and his neighbors’ homes every day, even when it’s hot and sunny.