Lake Okeechobee may be experiencing a large algae bloom

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
FILE Photo: Water being released from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River on October 29, 2018. Credit: WINK News.

A large algae bloom has been spotted in Lake Okeechobee. Officials are monitoring the spread to determine what impact it will have on Southwest Florida waters.

“It’s kind of like having a loaded gun pointed at you,” said Capt. Daniel Andrews, a Co-founder of Captains for Clean Water.

Clean Water is kind of a big deal for Andrews, and he has dedicated his life to monitoring the water quality. “It’s not a good situation that we’re at the very beginning of the wet season, we have algae on the lake, and the lake is rising pretty quickly.”

Satellite imagery on Saturday indicated a high concentration of cyanobacteria.

“When you see that big red blob in the middle of the lake and it’s showing up as cyanobacteria, that’s a very strong signal that we need to assess better with the grab samples to see what we’re dealing with,” said Dr. Mike Parsons, professor of marine science at FGCU.

Parsons added, “Regardless of how big the bloom is, will the bloom stay in the lake or will there be discharges?”

Parsons said that they still need to do more research. “There may not be toxins associated with it, so you also have to measure the toxins.”

The Army Corps of Engineers addressed the need for more research in a meeting on Monday.

“There is a possibility for making lake releases this year, unlike last year. Still too soon to tell,” said Col. Andrew Kelly, district commander for the Jacksonville Army Corps of Engineers.

Officials are going to continue to monitor the concern to see if it gets worse or spreads.

“We almost always have some kind of blue-green algal bloom. The big concern is are they getting worse,” Parsons said.

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