Algae bloom monitored near C-44 Canal

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/FDEP
MARTIN COUNTY – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection tested an algae bloom near the C-44 Canal on April 21.

MARTIN COUNTY — Due to the low lake level, algae-laden water from the C-44 Canal could be flowing into Lake Okeechobee.

Because the lake level is low — just 11.14 feet on May 20 — water from the C-44 basin has been flowing into the lake on and off for months. On May 19, the flow into the lake was about 142 cubic feet per second. For the previous seven days, the backflow into the lake from the C-44 averaged 39 cfs.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/FDEP
The blue dots on this map show the area near the C-44 Canal where an algae bloom was tested in April and May. The Port Mayaca Lock is at the far left in the map. Because the lake level has been below 12 feet for weeks, water has been backflowing into the lake from the C-44. No lake water has been released to the St. Lucie Estuaries in more than a year.

Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has been monitoring an algae bloom in the L-65 Canal, which flows into the C-44 Canal near Port Mayaca.

On April 21, an algae bloom on the downstream side of the S-153 structure had a dominant taxon Microcystis aeruginosa and microcystin level of 120 micrograms per liter. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers levels above 8 micrograms per liter to be unsafe for human recreational contact.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/FDEP
On May 19, FDEP again tested an algae bloom near the C-44 Canal. Test results are pending.

On April 28, the area was sampled again. This time the sample contained mixed algae with no dominant species and no toxins were detected.

On May 19, FDEP took samples again or a bloom area of 250 square feet downstream of the structure. Tests are pending.

According to the South Florida Water Management District data, the water in the C-44 canal averages about 191 parts per billion phosphorus due to the high nutrient load in runoff directly into the canal. The water that backflows into Lake Okeechobee from the C-44 basin (which often happens when the lake is below 12 feet) accounts for about 17 metric tons of phosphorus per year flowing into Lake Okeechobee.

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