Experts watching area of Lake Okeechobee for blue-green algae

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne
Published: Updated:

We all remember images from the water crisis, blue-green algae plaguing the canals along the Caloosahatchee in Southwest Florida.

Blue-green algae in 2018 (WINK News)

Right now, there’s an area in Lake Okeechobee that experts are watching. What we wanted to know is if they think it’s something to be concerned about.

The below NOAA satellite map gives you a better idea of bacteria concentrations in Lake Okeechobee. The bluish-green portion is the area of concern. We need to really worry if it turns yellow or red.

NOAA Satellite imaging map. (NOAA)

Summer is just around the corner.

“It’s this time of year when we expect blue-greens to start to grow a little bit,” said Dr. Barry Rosen, a professor at The Water School at FGCU. “The lake levels are very low, there are no discharges going out to the east coast or the west coast, other than what’s to get to move boat traffic through.”

While we never want to see or smell blue-green algae like we did a couple of years ago, Rosen says it’s too soon to tell.

The NOAA map, which was updated last week, shows the blue-green algae concentrations in portions of Lake O, mostly along the western side.

Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani is waiting for toxin results from last week’s sample.

“So all we know is that there’s been some bloom activity on the lake, but we don’t know what the toxin levels have been. They’ve been relatively low lately, but from the sampling that occurred on May 21, we don’t know yet,” he said.

As flows from Lake O to the Caloosahatchee are minimal at this time, “we don’t anticipate, at this point, any bloom material of any significance moving downstream, and there doesn’t seem to be any bloom activity in the Caloosahatchee or the St. Lucie,” Rosen said.

Still, safety is the priority.

“The bottom line is if you can see any kind of greenness or color to the water, keep your pets out, keep your children out of the water,” Rosen warned.

Now to compare, in 2018 when we saw the blue-green algae, about five times more water was getting released from Lake O into the Caloosahatchee than now.

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.