Blue-green algae blooms in Lake Okeechobee could present a big problem

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne
Blue-green algae in Lake Okeechobee (Captains for Clean Water)

The blue and green hues in the video above aren’t those of the Gulf of Mexico, but Lake Okeechobee.

“We’ve definitely seen it worse, but it is pretty concerning,” said Captain Daniel Andrews, co-founder and executive director for Captains for Clean Water.

Andrews took video of the lake from a plane on Wednesday morning.

“With this tropical storm out in the Caribbean right now and a lot of uncertainty there, Lake Okeechobee, now over 13 feet, we figured it’d be a good idea to just scope it out,” he said.

Scope it out as we wait and see if this storm brings heavy rainfall to the lake, which, for safety reasons, officials don’t want higher than 15 and a half feet.

“I think it’s something that’s of concern, especially if there are discharges with the tropical storm coming our way,” said Blue-Green Algae Task Force member, Dr. Mike Parsons.

The big concern? All this algae, filled with toxins, coming our way. An issue we asked Parsons about.

“You may have a big, thick clump that’s toxic, but you may have some fairly clear water next to it that’s not toxic, and so the easy answer would be yes, there’s toxins associated with it. If you extrapolate over the whole lake, it may not be a huge deal,” he said.

North Fort Myers fisherman Doug Akins hopes the harmful releases don’t reach our coast, because we’ve seen the damage they can cause.

“This is the livelihood down here and now I’m a full-time resident, so it’s my livelihood too.”

The Army Corps hasn’t decided yet how it will handle releases related to the tropical storm. Right now, they are monitoring the track.

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