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Lake Okeechobee toxin levels measure 16 times higher than what DEP recommends

Currently no discharges from the lake are heading east
Lake Okeechobee water level drops below targeted range
Posted at 1:49 PM, Jun 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-25 13:49:27-04

STUART, Fla. — The Florida Department of Health issued a blue-green algae alert for the waters coming from Lake Okeechobee near Port Mayaca on Thursday.

According to the Department of Environmental Protection, samples taken on June 21st measured 130 microcystin toxins (micrograms per liter), more than 16 times higher than what the DEP recommends any person or pet come into contact with.

At Port Mayaca, water from the lake flows into the C44 canal and then into the St. Lucie River and other heavily populated areas.

Lake levels Thursday were measured to be 12.59 feet, one and a half feet higher than what environmentalists prefer during hurricane season.

An advisory also remains in place for the C44 canal near Timer Powers Park in Indiantown.

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 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.

Currently, the Army Corps of Engineers is not discharging any water east and is in the process of developing its new lake management plan.

"It's really critical right now in the next couple of weeks as the Army Corps is landing on its new plan that it prioritizes public health by protecting residents from exposure to these toxic algae blooms," said Eve Samples, Friends of the Everglades.

Samples said she hopes the Army Corps of Engineers will choose a plan that moves more water from the lake into the everglades during the winter months when it's dry, rather than during the summer during the rainy season.