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Blue-green algae blooms reported

Locations include three in Cape Coral

By CJ HADDAD - | Jul 3, 2023

State and city officials are warning residents of algal blooms popping up at various bodies of water around the county, including Cape Coral. 

Data from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection shows three positive tests for algal blooms in Cape Coral since June 12, with four more in the North Fort Myers area, and even more in the surrounding area. In the Cape, positive tests for blue-green algae were identified at Jaycee Park on June 26, Rubicond Canal on June 28, and Rivers Condo on June 29.

On June 29, city of Cape Coral officials sent out a public warning for blue-green algae in the area of Jaycee Park, noting a signage update was performed. 

“Blue-green algae has been reported at several locations in the Caloosahatchee River, so City officials encourage the public to exercise caution when near any waterway,” city officials stated. 

DOH officials from June 23 to 29 visited 47 sites and collected samples, with algal bloom conditions observed by samplers at 28 of the sites. Officials said satellite imagery of Lake Okeechobee from June 29 shows “moderate to high bloom potential” on roughly 70% of the lake, with the highest bloom potential in the northeast section. Officials added that imagery of the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries shows 
“no bloom potential on visible portions of either estuary.”

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, occur frequently in Florida’s freshwater environments. 

“Blue-green algae are microorganisms that function like plants in that they use light energy from the sun and nutrients acquired from the environment to help them grow,” DEP officials state. 

Blooms occur when rapid growth of algae results in an accumulation of individual cells that, discolor water, can produce floating mats that give off unpleasant odors, and may negatively impact aquatic life. 

Some environmental factors that contribute to blue-green algae blooms are “sunny days, warm water temperatures, still water conditions and a plentiful supply of nutrients.”

Officials state that reducing the supply of nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorus in particular, can help decrease the intensity and duration of blue-green algal blooms.

Cape Coral officials state they routinely monitor for the presence of harmful algae and potential toxins within the city’s waterways using a private contractor, as well as information from county and state partners. The city is working to deter the presence of blue-green algae in local canals by activating bubble curtains during the incoming tides.

“The City reminds residents that pet waste, grass clippings, and fertilizers containing nitrogen or phosphorus entering waterways can worsen algal blooms,” officials said in a release. 

According to city ordinance, the use of fertilizers containing nitrogen or phosphorus is not permitted between June 1 and Sept. 30, and grass clippings should be disposed of as horticulture waste. 

With algal blooms come cause of concern when it comes to your health. Several side effects can come from being around a bloom or in algae waters, such as nausea and headache. Research has been ongoing when it comes to potential long-term effects and links to neurodegenerative disease. 

The Florida Department of Health released the following for residents and visitors to implement these precautions:

• You should not drink, swim, wade, water ski or engage in activities that may cause you to come in direct contact with waters where there is a visible bloom.

• Exercise caution when using personal watercraft or boating, to avoid stirring up or contacting the algae or the affected water.

• Avoid getting affected water in your eyes, nose or mouth.

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

• You should keep pets and livestock away from the waters in this location. 

• 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. 

• You should not eat shellfish from this location.

To report a bloom to DEP, call the toll-free hotline at 855-305-3903 or at www.floridadep.gov.

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 Lee County at 239-690-2100.