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Researchers trying to find ways to kill blue-green algae as it begins to reappear

Posted at 8:00 PM, Apr 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-28 20:00:02-04

LEE COUNTY — Blue-green algae is showing up again in the Caloosahatchee River. There’s enough of it that the Florida Department of Health has put up signs, warning people not to swim.

Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani said he expected to see algae blooms again when the Army Corps of Engineers released more water down the river from Lake Okeechobee.

Cassani took video Tuesday of fish swimming through a patch of algae.

"Those were two exotic species of fish that were trying to sort of opportunistically feed on the algae at the surface," said Cassani.

Cassani said, with blooms already present on Lake Okeechobee, he’s worried the water coming downstream will cause it to spread.

"That’s what’s on everyone’s mind is how do we prevent this from happening?” said Cassani.

That’s the question a team of students from Florida Gulf Coast University are trying to answer. They’re experimenting with a method to kill the algae, without hurting the environment.

"Rather than using toxic chemicals that are often used for mitigating blooms, we’re trying a different method by using hydrogen peroxide," said FGCU student Elizabeth Dahadl.

The students are also collecting samples, and preserving them in liquid nitrogen to study the impact algae blooms have on the environment. Professor Hidetoshi Urakawa said, they’re even bringing back vials of catfish poop.

"Studying catfish may give us some clear answers. So how algae influence other organisms," said Urakawa.

Urakawa said their research may also help predict blooms in the future, which Cassani said is the big question: how much algae are we going to see this year?

"I think what’s on everyone’s mind is what might be coming with the Corps increasing their releases from the Lake," said Cassani.

Algae blooms are harmful to humans is you ingest them, or even breath a lot of it in. That’s why the Health Department says, if you’re in the Alva area, don’t swim in the river.