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Algal bloom prompts riverfront park advisories

City of Cape Coral posts notices at Rosen Park, Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve, Horton Park, Jaycee Park & the Yacht Club Beach

July 5, 2018
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Algal blooms are continuing to put a damper on swimming and fishing conditions along the Caloosahatchee River, prompting the city of Cape Coral to post temporary advisory signs at Rosen Park, Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve, Horton Park, Jaycee Park and the Yacht Club Beach.

Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, can potentially produce toxins harmful to the human body, along with turning the water into a slimy, sludge-like dark green vat of "no way I'm swimming in that."

"We issued the advisory due to the presence of blue-green algae in the Caloosahatchee River, which can affect the canals adjacent to the river," said Maureen Buice, city spokesperson, in an email. "This does not affect all of our canals especially the freshwater canals. Also, it may not affect some of the more interior saltwater canals."

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The advisories-which state swim at your own risk and to not consume fish from the waters - were posted earlier in the week and will remain up as long as the blue-green algae is present, Buice said.

Cyanobacteria is a type of algae naturally present in freshwater environments.

It is a microorganism that functions similarly to plants in that is feeds through photosynthesis and obtains energy from the sun.

Fact Box

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"Harmful algal blooms, or HABs, occur when colonies of algae-simple photosynthetic organisms that live in the sea and freshwater-grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds."

- NOAA

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A contributing factor to algal bloom can be increases in nutrients that amplify the extent, duration and intensity of these blooms.

Other factors can include warm temperatures, reduced water flow and lack of animals that eat algae.

The summer and fall seasons can procure this kind of algae in Florida waters. High temperatures and lots of sunlight, combined with runoff from almost daily rains can bring nutrients into waterways and provide the perfect conditions for blooms.

According to the Florida Department of Health, some blue-green algae produce chemicals called cyanotoxins. In high concentrations, these toxins can affect the liver, nervous system and skin.

Other than drinking the affected surface water, it is difficult to get cyanotoxins into the body as they do no become easily airborne and do not pass through the skin readily, according to the DOH.

Rae Ann Wessel, Natural Resource Policy director at the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation put it succently: "If you see green water-stay out of it."

"It's an indication of poor water quality. Don't swim, don't boat, don't kayak through it. It may have central nervous system and liver impacts," she said.

An amino acid of this blue-green algae, BMAA, is being researched for potential ties to Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and ALS.

The same warning goes for pets as well. Do not allow your four-legged friends to swim, drink surface water or eat the scum of the bloom.

So where did this all start?

The bloom originated from Lake Okeechobee and made its way down to Moore Haven, to LaBelle and spread to Davis Boat Ramp on June 18.

By June 26, Wessel said microcystin levels up to 190 times over the EPA recommended threshold for recreational water use were seen in the Caloosahatchee.

"Twenty-two states have some kind of notification threshold for recreational waters, Florida is not one of them despite having the longest coastline in the lower 48," Wessel added.

How long will Cape Coral waters be riddled with algae?

"Blooms like this have to run their course and die out," Wessel said.

The number of storms and rainfall we get, along with the continual nutrients going into the water, can determine how things develop.

Wessel's belief is that we need to let Mother Nature clean the water naturally, but that can be quite the task with water being moved into canals, lakes, gulfs, etc. before getting the chance to metabolize nutrients.

Florida being a highly agricultural state also plays a part in the reuse of water and why nutrient levels are so high.

Wessel said especially in a place like Cape Coral, fertilizer use needs to be at a minimum.

Other experts agree.

"The nature of most freshwater algal bloom events makes it difficult to predict where and when a bloom will occur or how long it will last. However, lessening the negative effects of algal blooms is possible through restoration work to improve water quality by reducing nutrients," said Dee Ann Miller, spokesperson for Florida Department of Environmental Protection. "Reducing nitrogen and phosphorous levels can help decrease the intensity and duration of algal blooms. That is why the department if committed to working with local stakeholders to address excess nutrients through restoration projects and strategies. Examples of these projects include building stormwater treatment areas, expanding and upgrading stormwater systems and wastewater treatment facilities, and fertilizer ordinances and best management practices."

The DEP, DOH, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer services, along with the five water management districts all work in conjuncture in responding to algal blooms.

"DEP and Florida's water management districts frequently monitor Florida's water quality, and routinely collect algal bloom samples as soon as they are observed as part of this effort. In addition, staff can be deployed to take additional samples in response to reported blooms, whether from a citizen, other response team agencies or other sources," Miller said.

Samples of algae are taken by DEP and are processed in its nationally recognized lab in Tallahassee to identify the type of algae present and whether it's producing toxins-and if so, what kinds.

Samples take approximately three to five days to process.

"We will continue to respond as quickly and efficiently as possible to both observed and reported algal blooms. Persistent blooms are routinely monitored and retested, and staff also regularly reviews satellite imagery and aerial photography, when available, to inform the development of daily sampling plans," she added.

Sampling the same spot twice is a vital step, as the algae may not give off these toxins right away.

As recently as July 2, samples were collected by DEP at Cape Coral Yacht Club and at the Cape Coral Bridge, where it was noted the bloom was from "shoreline to shoreline extending upstream for miles."

DEP encourages everyone to be on the lookout for blooms and to report them.

Information can be submitted online at www.reportalgalbloom.com as well as calling a toll-free number at 1-855-305-3903.

If you are worried that you may be suffering negative health affects from the blue-green algae, contact the Florida Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Cape Coral residents can monitor and obtain further information about algal blooms by visiting www.floridadep.gov/dear/algal-bloom .

 
 

 

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