SOUTH BETHANY, Del. - On Wednesday afternoon, an unusual beast was at work on the canal between Bayshore Drive and Carlisle Road in South Bethany.

It was a hydrorake, brought in to harvest algae that grows each spring on the canals.

The hydrorake raked in and piled up the algae on a small barge, where it looked like an unkempt green shag rug.

Hydrorake operator JD Afford took a few minutes to explain where the algae came from.

"It's from fertilizers, with high nitrogen and phosphorous that comes in [to the water]," said Afford. "It starts to grow, and it just goes like crazy." 

The algae is more than just unsightly and stinky.

South Bethany neighbor Scott Fischer said it is a serious safety hazard for boaters and jetskiers.

"When the algae gets as bad as it has been, and it's starting to now, you really can't take your boat up and down the canal safely," Fischer explained. "The algae wraps around the prop and can tear it up. And if you have a jet ski it can be even worse because it would get sucked into the impellers." 

After an unusually large algae bloom last year, this year the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and Bethany Beach have brought in private contractor Solitude Lake Management to help clean up the algae, which will be collected and dumped at a DNREC site outside of town.

Deborah Michalski is a former nurse and says the algae poses another threat to both humans and pets.

"Algae is very infective, it can cause infection, so for swimming purposes, it's dangerous," Michalski said.

This weeks algae cleanup operations will continue through Friday afternoon. Another algae cleanup operation will happen on the canals of South Bethany in June; dates have not yet been announced.