Like the past couple of summers, the gulf coast is now starting to deal with the effects of the algae blooms. Currently, they can be found from the Tampa Bay region through South Florida. Around Lake Okeechobee, near the Port Mayaca Dam, tests of the water show the toxicity from blooms is three times too high to touch. At the end of June, another bloom was found in the lake near the West Palm Beach canal that was seven times too toxic to touch.
The Department of Environmental Protection reported that the blue-green algae currently in Lake Okeechobee could intensify. Right now, 15 percent of the lake indicates a medium to high blue-green algae potential. The most recent satellite imagery does not show signs of algae in the lake’s estuaries.
The scientific name for the blooms is cyanotoxins but are commonly referred to as “blue-green algae blooms” and are the world’s most powerful natural toxins. The liver toxin Microcystin, which is linked to human liver disease, and BMAA link to neurological disease are emitted from the cyanotoxins.
The blooms have not just been found at Lake Okeechobee, they have also been seen in Manatee County’s Robinson Preserve and the Manatee River canals. In June, kayakers found themselves maneuvering around thick clumps of the blue-green algae clogging up the waterways.
For residents of the area, the stench is all too familiar after last summer’s outbreak of red tide. At this time, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is reporting that they are only seeing a background presence of the red tide off the coast of Sarasota County.
Charlie Hunsicker, Director of the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources said, “We’ve got it. It’s no longer a question.” According to Hunsicker, usually, the natural tidal flow through the Manatee River and Perico Bayou is enough to flush out low-oxygen waters caused by the algae blooms. Hunsicker when on to say, “But now we are seeing such an overwhelming mass of dead and dying algae that even the tidal flushing is not enough to keep ahead of the oxygen-robbing effects that can cause fish kills.” Adding later that the high presence of brown and blue-green algae in the lower Manatee River is creating a “one-two punch” to the water quality.
Recently, the Department of Environmental Protection tested 14 locations along the Manatee River, which included Palma Sola Bay and three areas along Anna Maria Island. Currently, only the river has produced positive results. Unfortunately, blue-green algae can thrive in fresh and brackish waters, like the Manatee River, but it dies once it comes in contact with saltwater.