Daphen Smith’s first summer in her North Fort Myers home, which is adjacent to a canal, has been filled with pungent smells of blue-green algae.
“It was so green — the smell was so horrible,” Smith said. “We had problems breathing!”
The canal sits right off the Caloosahatche River. Smith purchased the house because of the beautiful wildlife, the creek and the privacy it affords. When she first moved to the new home, it became a place of relaxation for her whole family.
“We could literally see fish jumping,” Smith said. “We fed the fish. It was beautiful.”
Now she worries for her health. The air quality is terrible, making breathing hard. The cute animals, a source of enjoyment when she is relaxing, have disappeared. All of which has her frustrated.
But within the last few weeks, Smith has noticed baby fish and some wildlife have made a return. It has made her more optimistic about the future. But her optimism is consistently being tested.
“As soon as the water came out,” Smith said, referring to the release of water from Lake Okeechobee, “green slime would come back.”
Lee County mayors are appealing a ruling by the South Florida Water Management District about those habitual releases. They have proposed having more water released during the dry season and less during the summer months.
Blue-green algae forms when there is an abundance of nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen. People who swim in lakes with toxic blue-green algae have experienced stomach pains, vomiting, diarrhea, and skin rashes. A significant amount of marine life have died from the exposure.
At a special Cape Coral water meeting, local residents were united when they voiced their frustration about the blue-green algae problem and how the government has handled the environmental disaster.
Council members will meet with the city attorney Wednesday where they will discuss the strategy moving forward. There will be a court ruling on the issue by the conclusion of the month.
While Smith has faith in the government to find a solution, she remains disappointed that Lake Okeechobee continues to release more water. She hopes by next year, she will be able to enjoy her backyard with her family.
“I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to tell us that they need to do something different,” Smith said. “I hear a lot of talk, but I don’t see a lot of action.”