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Health advisory issued on blue-green algae in Lake Okeechobee

NOAA algae map showing extent of blue-green algae in Lake Okeechobee as of May 22.
Special to WGCU
NOAA algae map showing extent of blue-green algae in Lake Okeechobee as of May 22.

The Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County has issued a Health Alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in the Lake Okeechobee.

Areas cited included the Pahokee Marina Boat RampPALMOUT3LZ30RITTAE2, and L007 water bodies, mainly sites in the southern section of the lake.

The advisory is in response to water samples taken on May 17. 

While the public should exercise caution in and around these areas, the advisory is only a recreational surface water alert, drinking water is not affected.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

  • 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 Boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins.
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts and cook fish well.
  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae

What is blue-green algae?

Blue-green algae are a type of bacteria that is common in Florida’s freshwater environments. A bloom occurs when rapid growth of algae leads to an accumulation of individual cells that discolor water and often produce floating mats that emit unpleasant odors.

Some environmental factors that contribute to blue-green algae blooms are sunny days, warm water temperatures, still water conditions and excess nutrients. Blooms can appear year-round but are more frequent in summer and fall. Many types of blue-green algae can produce toxins.

Blue-green algae blooms can impact human health and ecosystems, including fish and other aquatic animals.

For additional information on potential health effects of algal blooms, visit www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/aquatic-toxins.

Find current information about Florida’s water quality status and public health notifications for harmful algal blooms and beach conditions by visiting ProtectingFloridaTogether.gov. Protecting Florida Together is the state’s joint effort to provide statewide water quality information to prioritize environmental transparency and commitment to action.

To see if an algae bloom health alert has been lifted, please see this link below and enter "Palm Beach County" for location: https://protectingfloridatogether.gov/water-quality-status-dashboard
Copyright 2023 WGCU. To see more, visit WGCU.

WGCU Staff
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