LAKE OKEECHOBEE — A single sample from Lake Okeechobee had trace levels of microcystin toxins last week, but the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation encourages everyone to avoid areas with visible alga blooms.
The FDEP continues to monitor Lake Okeechobee and area waterways for algae.
National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration satellite imagery indicated bloom “potential” in approximately 25% of the lake over the past week.
On Aug. 10, South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) staff collected samples from Lake Okeechobee lakeside at the Port Mayaca Lock. The sample had no dominant algae and no cyanotoxins were detected. That same day, SFWMD also sampled lakeside at the Moore Haven Lock.
On Aug. 12, SFWMD staff collected a sample from Lake Okeechobee at the S-352 water control structure at Canal Point. The sample was dominated by Microcystis aeruginosa and a trace (0.28 ppb) level of total microcystins was detected.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers levels of microcystin of less than 8 parts per billion (8 ppb) to be safe for human recreational contact. This level was calculated based on the assumption that children ingest some water while swimming. The EPA considers level above 1 ppb to be unsafe for drinking water.
Different types of blue-green algal bloom species can look different and have different impacts, according to FDEP. “However, regardless of species, many types of blue-green algae can produce toxins that can make you or your pets sick if swallowed or possibly cause skin and/or eye irritation due to contact. We advise to stay out of water where algae is visibly present as specks, mats or water is discolored pea-green, blue-green or brownish-red. Additionally, pets or livestock should not come into contact with the algal bloom-impacted water, or the algal bloom material or fish on the shoreline,” the FDEP website warns.