New tech studying blue-green algae in SWFL

Reporter: Elizabeth Biro Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

Water releases aren’t expected anytime soon directly from Lake Okeechobee, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Nevertheless, blue-green algal blooms are present on the lake, in the Caloosahatchee and along canals in Southwest Florida.

The blooms are raising fresh concerns about the air we breathe.

Typically, Anthony Karp loves waterfront living in Cape Coral.

“There’s a definite resemblance of the way it was before,” said Karp.

Although, as algae recently returned to his canal, it brought back memories of 2018.

“When I came out to see where the odor was coming from, I just saw these huge pods or cakes, whatever you want to call them. Of the blue-green algae,” said Karp. “My daughter and I, we began to wear a mask, and then we would make a quick exit out. And then we would head into (the) house as quickly as possible when we returned from shopping or wherever we were going to because it was just so awful. You don’t want to even be outside breathing or smelling the stuff.”

While Karp takes precautions and asks questions about breathing in the toxins from algae blooms, there are tools being used to track the issues.

“This is our ADAM device. ADAM is an acronym that stands for Aerosol Detector for Algae Monitoring,” said Calusa Waterkeeper Captain Codty Pierce.

Pierce and ADAM are getting answers. Sampling the air to test for different types of cyanotoxins that may be present and how they correspond with seasonal trends.

“Rainfall, temperature, also coming off of a storm event,” said Pierce.

Most recently, ADAM was deployed near the Caloosahatchee in Alva and downstream in Cape Coral near Red Fish Point.

“When we choose spots to begin with, we’re looking for hotspots and normally have an accumulation of surface activity, you know, whether it’s blue-green algae or some other algae,” said Pierce.

Sampling the air at a height, anyone nearby would breathe. ADAM stays out for 24 hours, gathering data through the day, night and morning while temperatures fluctuate.

Pierce calls this time the apex of growing season, because right about now is when conditions are just right for blooms, and they want to use this time to quickly learn as much as possible.

The Calusa Waterkeeper Organization will continue to deploy a number of ADAM units every month. They expect to get test results back from Alva and Cape Coral this weekend.

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