Florida Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto is calling for action in the interest of your health as bacteria and potentially toxic algae continue to hurt our waterways. A state of emergency remains in effect for Lee County and three other counties along the east coast, including Martin County, which just extended its state of emergency for another week.
"I'm really scared for our beach and our way of life here," Darcy Olbrich said. "when people ask me if it's safe to swim, I just tell them to swim at their own risk."
Olbrich works on Fort Myers beach, she tells us her concerns are echoed by those who make their living along the coast.
While the water releases from Lake Okeechobee have slowed, the effects are still visible along our shores and are firmly in the minds of elected officials like Lizbeth Benacquisto.
"The issue is on top of mind for all of us here in Lee County," Benacquisto said.
Benacquisto tells Four In Your Corner algae from excess releases is the biggest problem the state faces at the moment, adding, elected officials will not rest until they reach a solution.
"We're on the cusp of knowing if they turn toxic or not," she said. "They haven't yet, but it is something we are very mindful of."
Lee County is still under a state of emergency, Benacquisto tells FOX 4 people should be mindful when planning a trip to the beach.
"I would encourage folks if they see the water is green, I wouldn't go in that water," Benacquisto said. "The beaches are beautiful and they're safe but when you see that bright spot of green water, I would encourage folks to be careful."
Governor Rick Scott recently signed the Legacy Florida Bill which allows $200 million dollars a year for the next 20 years for Everglades restoration projects. Benacquisto says this funding may also be used to help small businesses.
"A hotline has been set up to help those small businesses to receive funds and assistance if their businesses is affected by these water quality issues," Benacquisto said. "For me all options are on the table. We are pushing the district and the state to make sure when we're planning for the next phase of storage, options and opportunities, we don't just want to look north of the lake we want to look south of the lake as well."
There is a Florida Virtual Business Emergency Operations Center to assist businesses affected by Lake Okeechobee discharge and the increased number of algal blooms.
Affected businesses are asked to complete a Business Damage Assessment Survey by clicking here. Results will be shared with federal, state, and local agencies to expedite implementation of appropriate disaster relief programs for affected businesses.
"We will not rest until solutions are found and things are done to make the system safe and healthy for the long run," Benacquisto said.