The Florida Department of Health in Lee County is issuing a health alert for the Alva Boat Ramp based on reports of algae toxins found by the ramp.
When blue-green toxins are detected, DOH recommends individuals avoid contact with the water. DEP will continue to post updates for Alva Boat Ramp on their website.
“Some of these toxins cause neuro-degenerative disease that manifest years and years later,” Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani said. “And so you need to be aware of that and try to avoid exposure.”
Blue-green algae can cause gastrointestinal effects if swallowed. Children and pets are especially vulnerable, so keeping them away from the water during a bloom is important.
If you wish to report a new algae bloom, visit DEP’s Algal Bloom Monitoring & Response webpage.
“When it gets really bad, it’s probably good to stay indoors as much as possible, not be breathing the aerosols that come from the water,” Cassani said. “So it can be pretty toxic stuff. Can kill a pet if they drink it.”
Randy Bedore said the warning of blue-green algae toxins detected in the Caloosahatchee should concern everybody.
“It says do not touch the water,” Bedore said. “I mean how do you dock a boat without touching the water. You have to get in the water to launch your boat. I mean, it’s not safe.”
Bedore said he could feel the effects right away.
“I don’t know if you can hear it or not, but we just got off the water,” Bedore said. “And my voice is raspy, and that seems to happen every time we go on the water when they mention that there’s algae.”
While the blue-green algae at the Alva Boat Ramp is not obvious, it’s not isolated to that area. There is also concern for toxic algae at Davis Boat Ramp in Fort Myers.
Cassani said the fact that we’re seeing the algae pop up before June is alarming.
“There used to be a season to these harmful algal blooms, and that was kind of like June through November in Florida,” Cassani explained. “But now we’re seeing these blooms literally every month of the year. But we’re not seeing the really bad ones usually till June. So here it is April, and you know, this is not a good omen for what’s coming in warmer temperatures and longer daylight here down the road.”
We asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about toxic blue-green algae in the Caloosahatchee, and we were told the Corps is monitoring the algae closely, but they will need to start doubling the water releases from Lake Okeechobee immediately as we head into rainy season.
Cassani told us he is sending samples of the water for toxin analysis. He expects to learn if the algae are dangerous in the coming days.