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Blue-Green Algae Warning Extended, Use Caution in Area Lakes, Peace River

Toxins May Cause Serious Illness

The Florida Department of Health in Polk County (DOH-Polk) is once again cautioning the public about the presence of blue-green algae in several area lakes. Although none has been reported in Ridge-area lakes, not every lake is tested, so boaters, swimmers, and fishers should be aware of the potential and take precautions.

Water samples taken from Scott Lake, Lake Van, Lake Hancock, Lake Gibson, and Lake Conine on May 23 detected blue-green algae that have the potential to produce toxins. New samples taken between June 4 and 6 showed the algae still present in Lakes Van and Conine, while also being found in the Peace River at Fort Meade.

The intense drought and heat of May and early June contributed to very hot water temperatures, which are conducive to the growth of algae. Bright sunshine is also a factor in the growth of the vegetation. Since environmental conditions can change at any time, it is important to exercise caution, even if presence of toxins has not yet been confirmed.

DOH-Polk advises residents and visitors not to drink, swim, wade, use personal watercrafts, or come into contact with waters where there is a visible bloom. Wash skin and clothing with soap and water after any contact with algae or discolored or water that smells unpleasant. Residents are urged to keep pets and livestock away from the area to avoid any contact with water.

Waters where algae blooms are present are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should use an alternative source of water when algae blooms are present. The state health officials warn against cooking or cleaning dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate toxins.

Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe, according to the Department of Health. they advise rinsing fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throwing out the guts, and cooking fish thoroughly. Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and partners collect algae samples from reported bloom locations. After samples are analyzed at their laboratory, the toxin results can be viewed on Protecting Florida Together or on DEP's Algal Bloom Dashboard.

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.

Blue-green algae blooms can also appear as scum, foam, or paint on the surface of the water in various colors. To learn more about the appearance of algae blooms, visit Protecting Florida Together.

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 may not always be visible as a bloom, but it can still be present in the water.

Blue-green algae can produce toxins, which can be harmful to human and pets as well as ecosystems, including fish and other aquatic animals. Sensitive individuals (e.g., children, the elderly and those who are immunocompromised) may still be at risk even at low concentrations and should avoid any exposure.

For additional information on potential health effects of algae blooms, visit DOH's harmful algae blooms webpage.

DEP monitors algae blooms and collects samples for analysis. Blooms can be reported to DEP online or by calling toll-free at 1-855-305-3903. Report symptoms from exposure to a harmful algae bloom or any aquatic toxin to the Florida Poison Information Center by calling 800-222-1222 to speak to a poison specialist.

Contact your veterinarian if you believe your pet has become ill after consuming or having contact with blue-green algae contaminated water. Dead, diseased, or abnormally behaving fish or wildlife should be reported to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission online or at 800-636-0511.

If you have other health questions or concerns about blue-green algae blooms, please call please call DOH-Polk at 863-578-2024.


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