LABELLE — The Florida Department of Health in Hendry has issued a Health Alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in the Caloosahatchee River. This is in response to water samples taken on June 3, 2021. The public should exercise caution in and around Caloosahatchee River.
According to the Florida Department of Health website, while samples taken in June have shown the presence of Microcystis aeruginosa, toxin levels have been below the level deemed safe for human contact. The World Health Organization considers levels above 1 microgram per liter to be unsafe for drinking water and levels above 8 micrograms per liter to be unsafe for human recreational contact (such as swimming).
• On June 1, a water sample taken at the Franklin Lock had had 0.37 micrograms per liter microcystin. Dominant taxon was Microcystis aeruginosa.
• June 3, a water sample taken near the Midpoint Bridge Park showed mixed algae with no dominant species. No toxins were detected.
• June 3, a sample taken near Olga Drive Shores had 0.77 micrograms per liter microcystin. Dominant taxon was Microcystis aeruginosa.
• June 3, a sample taken near Sebastian Court Canal was dominant for Microcystis aeruginosa with microcystin levels of 0.52 micrograms per liter.
• June 3 a sample taken at LaBelle had 0.65 micrograms per liter microcystin. Dominant taxon was Microcystis aeruginosa
• June 7, a sample taken upstream of the Moore Haven Lock 0.35 micrograms per liter microcystin. Dominant taxon was Microcystis aeruginosa
• June 7 a sample taken from the north branch of the Caloosahatchee near Fort Myers Shores had 0.64 micrograms per liter microcystin. Dominant taxon was Microcystis aeruginosa.
• June 10, a sample taken near S. Olga Drive had mixed algae with no dominant species. No microcystin was detected.
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 or discolored or smelly water.
• Keep pets away from the area. 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 are 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?
Of the 28 species of cyanobacteria documented in the Lake Okeechobee watershed about 25% are capable of producing toxins, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Species of cyanobacteria capable of producing toxins do not always do so. Health officials warn that you cannot tell what species of algae is present or if toxins are present without testing. All blooms should be treated by the public as potentially harmful.
Blue-green algae blooms that produce toxins can impact human health and ecosystems, including fish and other aquatic animals.
For additional information on potential health effects of algal blooms, visit 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 Hendry at 863-302-6021.