FDEP monitors lakes and rivers for algae blooms

Some algae was observed in Lake Okeechobee and area waterways last week. 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.

The imagery from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows blue green algae present in Lake Okeechobee, but not on the surface. The imagery can detect the probability of cyanobacteria in the water column even when it is not visible on the surface.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite image from May 22 shows some areas likely to have concentrations of blue green algae in 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. The NOAA image does not indicate what kind of algae is present. The NOAA image does not show if there are any toxins.

Not all algae or cyanobacteria produce toxins. Some blue green algae (cyanobacteria) can produce toxins, but does not always do so. Researchers are still trying to determine what causes the toxin production; It is believed to be related to a combination of factors.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, lock tenders at the Port Mayaca lock continue to report visible algae on the east side of the structure. No water has been released from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie Canal since March 30.

• On May 20, the water in Gator Lake at Six Mile Cypress Slough in Lee County was observed to look like “pea soup.” Dominant taxon was Anabaena sp. No toxins were detected.

• On May 20, water samples were taken upstream of the Franklin Lock on the Caloosahatchee River. No blue-green algae was visible. Samples tested found mixed algae with no dominant species. No toxins were detected.

• On May 21, surface scum was observed on the Caloosahatchee River at the Tarpon St. Pier. Dominant taxon was Enteromorpha sp. No toxins were detected.

• On May 21, mixed algae was observed on the Caloosahatchee River near the bridge at LaBelle. Samples tested found mixed algae with no dominant species. No toxins were detected.

• On May 21. a sample taken at the Alva Boat Ramp was dominant for Microcystis aeruginosa. No toxins were detected.

• A sample was taken at the Port Mayaca Lock on May 22. According to FDEP, there was no visible blue-green algae in the water. A sample was taken lakeside of the lock for background data. Tests indicated there was some mixed algae in the water with no dominate species. No toxins were detected.

• On May 22, FDEP took two samples from Lake Okeechobee near Clewiston. Some algae was visible in the water. Microcystis aeruginosa was the dominant blue green algae. One sample showed microcystin level of 1.54 micrograms per liter; one 2.08 micrograms per liter. The World Health Organization has deemed levels below 10 micrograms per liter as safe for human recreational contact.

• On May 22, an algae bloom was reported in the C-24 Canal in St. Lucie County. No algae was observed, but water appeared to have high turbidity. Dominant taxon in the sample was Trachelomonas sp. The sample will be tested for toxins.

• On May 23, flecks of algae were observed in the Caloosahatchee at the Orange River mouth. Samples were taken.

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

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