Algae at Port Mayaca lock contains toxins

PORT MAYACA — A sample from an algae bloom within the wing walls of the water control structure at Port Mayaca on June 26 contained the toxin microcystin at a level of 26 micrograms per liter according to the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation test. The Environmental Protection Agency considers levels about 8 micrograms per liter to be unsafe for recreational contact. According to FDEP, the algal bloom was about 50 yards by 100 yards in size with streaks of blue green algae in the water column. The dominant toxin was identified as Microcystis aeruginosa.

Algal blooms are common in the summer when water temperatures are warmer.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are a group of organisms that can live in freshwater, saltwater or mixed (brackish) water. These kinds of organisms are naturally occurring in Florida’s environment and are also found all over the world.

Over the seven-day period ending July 2, no water flowed east into the St. Lucie Canal from Lake Okeechobee. No lake water has flowed into the St. Lucie since the end of March. Some water from the St. Lucie canal backflowed into the lake between April 1 and June 12 because it’s gravity flow and the Port Mayaca gate was open for boat traffic. But the Port Mayaca Lock has been closed since June 12. There has been little rainfall in the basin that feeds the St. Lucie Canal. Over the past seven days, flow at the St. Lucie Lock — all from local basin runoff — averaged just 39 cubic feet per second.

To the west, water is only released at Moore Haven to the Caloosahatchee if there is not enough local basin rainfall to maintain at least a flow of 450 cfs at the Franklin Lock. Many days, there was no flow at the Moore Haven Lock. Flow at the Franklin Lock as 3,082 cfs — all from local basin runoff. The average flow for the past 7 days from the Moore Haven lock into the Caloosahatchee was just 28 cfs.

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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