weird. never seen anything like that.
FWIW, the element is the one recommended by jkarp in his Countertop Brutus thread. It not the Rheem brand, but is the "factory-approved" replacement for the Rheem.
Never heard or seen of that before. Can you remove it??
My old element had those, it was a SS element.
They took on the look of something that had been in boiled wort (brownish). But no melting or other issues. However I did have a batch of scorched wort with that element so I replaced it with a ULWD element.
The base of an element has cold spears that don't heat up, so it shouldn't melt.
I went ahead and cut off the plastic sheathes with a utility knife. It seems to be some kind of brittle plastic.