Lake O releases, fertilizers contribute to algae in the Caloosahatchee

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Experts say that Lake Okeechobee releases are definitely a contributing factor to the algae in the Caloosahatchee River, but the chemicals from fertilizers are also adding to the gunky, green sight.

“It happens pretty much each year,” said Sweetwater Landing Marina owner Brandon Mayer. “It’s a normal occurrence.”

Mayer says he has gotten used to the slimy, green water surrounding the boats off State Road 31 and worrying his customers.

“A lot of customers just want to know if it’s anything that’s gonna be alarming health wise, or where they can’t get in the water,” Mayer said.

MORE: ‘Just another day in south FL’: Neighbors deal with green algae bloom

Experts say it is alarming and harmful to people and wildlife. One problem is the Lake Okeechobee releases that are sent down the Caloosahatchee, but another issue is something in people’s lawns and landscapes, fertilizers.

“Fertilizer is good as long as it’s just being applied during winter months, and being irrigated with standard irrigation,” said horticulturist at Seabreeze Landscapes Justen Dobbs.

Fertilizer’s needed to keep plants healthy, but not good during the summer months.

With the heavy rain during the summer, it causes fertilizers to run off into the water.

“We have a lot of rain run off that makes it’s way through everybody’s lawns, into the storm run off and, eventually, out into the gulf,” Dobbs said.

A Lee County ordinance doesn’t allow landscapers to use fertilizers with nitrogen or phosphorous during the months of summer to September. But, this ordinance doesn’t stop homeowners from using that kind of fertilizer on their lawns.

“Focus on fertilizers granular or liquid that doesn’t have that nitrogen element,” Dobbs said.

Experts say that it may be hard to find nitrogen free fertilizer in the store, so they suggest hiring a landscaper.

The Department of Environmental Protection is staying on top of the algae in the area. The DEP just tested the water at the Sweetwater Landing Marina just yesterday. The results have not been release yet, but the algae at the Alva boat ramp is non-toxic.

To see a map of DEP samplings and results, click here.

MORE: Army Corps to reduce water releases from Lake O starting Friday

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