Health alert issued in Fort Myers Shores for blue-green algae outbreak in Caloosahatchee

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:
(Credit: WINK News)

The Florida Department of Health has issued a health alert after finding harmful blue-green algae toxins in the Caloosahatchee River at the Davis Boat Ramp in Fort Myers Shores.

The health alert results from a Dec. 1 sample taken from the water in that area.

While it isn’t thick or smelly, Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani said the toxins still pose a risk. “You can get it on your skin, you can inhale the aerosols in the air, you can ingest it if you’re swimming in the water.”

He argues the increased nutrients come from Lake Okeechobee. “It seems a little more than a coincidence that the corps started releasing water about three weeks ago from lake Okeechobee, and now we’re seeing these blooms pop up.”

Roland Martin Marina General Manager Ramon Iglesias points to water quality issues on the Gulf Coast after the Florida Department of Environmental Protection fined the city of Fort Myers for spills earlier this year.

“I think it’s important for people to realize that we’re all part of a problem and if we work together, we can find solutions for water issues,” said Iglesias.

This latest bloom could be an indicator of a bigger water quality problem.

Waterkeeper Cassani said, “Trying to figure out, you know, what is the exact cause is hard to prove.”

The department of health is asking that you take the following precautions if you are near a blue-green algae bloom:

    • Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom.
    • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have contact with algae or discolored or smelly water.
    • Keep pets away from the area. Waters, where there are algae blooms, are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should have a different source of water when algae blooms are present.
    • Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins.
    • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts and cook fish well.
    • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.

Blue-green algae is a type of bacteria that can produce floating mats of algae on the surface of the water and emit a bad smell.

The health department says sunny days, warm and still water, and excess nutrients in the water contribute to these harmful blooms.

If you want to learn more about algal blooms and the dangers they can pose to you and your pets, you can click here.

If you believe that you are suffering from exposure to an algal bloom, the health department recommends you call the Florida Poison Information Center at 1-800-222-1222. If your pet becomes ill after coming in contact with blue-green algae, they suggest you call your vet.

For any other health questions and concerns about blue-green algae blooms, you can call the Florida Department of Health in Lee County at (239) 690-2100.

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