Health officials issue blue-green algae bloom alert

Posted 5/27/22

FDOH issues health alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in Lake Okeechobee.

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Health officials issue blue-green algae bloom alert

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MOORE HAVEN — The Florida Department of Health in Glades County has issued a health alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in Lake Okeechobee. This is in response to water samples taken on May 23, 2022.

Although the toxin level detected was below the World Health Organization (WHO) has deemed safe for drinking water, the health department advises the public should exercise caution in the rim canal around the Alvin Ward Boat Ramp in Lake Okeechobee.

Detectable microcystim toxin levels of 0.4 micrograms per liter were  found lakeside at the Julian Keen Jr. Lock, according to FDOH. WHO considers levels below 1.0 microgram per liter to be safe for drinking water.

For specific locations please visit floridadep.gov/dear/algal-bloom/content/algal-bloom-sampling-results

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

• Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom.

• Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have contact with algae, discolored water or smelly water.

• Keep pets away from areas with visible algae. Waters where there are algae blooms are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should have a different source of water when algae blooms are present.

• Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins.

• Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts and cook fish well.

• Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.

What is blue-green algae?

Blue-green algae  is a type of bacteria that is common in Florida’s freshwater environments. A bloom occurs when rapid growth of algae leads to an accumulation of individual cells that discolor water and often produce floating mats that emit unpleasant odors.

Some environmental factors that contribute to blue-green algae blooms are sunny days, warm water temperatures, still water conditions and excess nutrients. Blooms can appear year-round but are more frequent in summer and fall. Many types of blue-green algae can produce toxins.

Is it harmful?

Many specues blue-green algae do not produce toxins, but it is impossible to tell what species of algae is present without testing. It is impossible to tell if toxins are present without testing so an abudance of caution is advised.

For additional information on potential health effects of algal blooms, visit www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/aquatic-toxins

Find current information about Florida’s water quality status and public health notifications for harmful algal blooms and beach conditions by visiting ProtectingFloridaTogether.gov. Protecting Florida Together is the state’s joint effort to provide statewide water quality information to prioritize environmental transparency and commitment to action.

What do I do if I see an algal bloom?

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection collects and analyzes algal bloom samples. To report a bloom to DEP, call the toll-free hotline at 855-305-3903 or report online.

To report fish kills, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute at 1-800-636-0511.

Report symptoms from exposure to a harmful algal bloom or any aquatic toxin to the Florida Poison Information Center, call 1-800-222-1222 to speak to a poison specialist immediately.

Contact your veterinarian if you believe your pet has become ill after consuming or having contact with blue-green algae contaminated water.

If you have other health questions or concerns about blue-green algae blooms, please call the Florida Department of Health in Glades at 863-302-6021.

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