Algae from Lake Okeechobee samples show no toxins

Warm weather has brought reports of algal blooms in the Lake Okeechobee area as well as in waterways in other parts of the state.

So far, the majority of Lake Okeechobee samples have tested with no toxins. A few samples have tested with barely-detectable low levels of toxins that are well below the World Health Organization (WHO) standard for human contact.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation, there were 19 reported site visits in the week of May 9-16 in the Lake Okeechobee watershed, with 18 sites resulting in samples collected. Microcystin toxin was not detected in 14 of the samples; the remaining four are pending the results of analysis. Accumulation of algae was reported only at the Alva Boat Ramp in Lee County; the remaining site observations showed no significant accumulation.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite images from May 19 show some potential for algal blooms on the lake, but no areas with visible surface scum. On the color-coded computer imagery, areas in red indicate a high possibility of surface scum.

Blue green algae continues to be reported by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lock operators upstream and downstream of the S-79/Franklin lock on the Caloosahatchee River and at the S-308 structure on the St. Lucie Canal. Since the lake level is below 12 ft., water backflows into the Lake Okeechobee from the St. Lucie Canal at the S-308 structure.

Lake Okeechobee field observations by South Florida Water Management District staff on May 15, indicated that NOAA satellite imagery for that day may have been over predictive of the amount of algae on the lake. The SFWMD is coordinating with NOAA to gain a better understanding of the difference between the satellite imagery and field observations.

Elsewhere in the state, FDEP reports the bloom on the St. Johns River identified in previous weeks persists from Lake George to County Road 208. There has also been accumulation of floating filamentous blue-green algae along the shoreline of the intercoastal waterways of Manatee, Sarasota, and Charlotte counties. FDEP field observations indicate that conditions may be improving, with less algal accumulation visible.

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