Originally published by The News-Press on May 24, 2021 by Amy Bennett Williams

As Lee County commissioners plead with the feds to protect the Caloosahatchee and its estuary from excessive Lake Okeechobee releases, health officials are cautioning people to stay away from the water at three popular freshwater boat launches. At the same time, at least five coastal beaches are under red tide alerts.

The one-two environmental punch is starting to look alarmingly like what scientist Paul Cox calls “the toxic vise,” conditions that reached crisis stage in 2018, when then-Gov. Rick Scott declared dual states of emergency.

Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani said, “It appears toxin levels are paralleling the increased distribution and severity of the cyanotoxin blooms in the Caloosahatchee. However, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection reported toxin levels are substantially lower than what we reported on May 18,” he said.

With winds dying down, “Some oxbows and boat basins sheltered from wind mixing are already showing cyanobacteria mat formation,” Cassani said. “As the winds subside we will likely see more surface accumulation that may increase aerosol production and the potential for related inhalation toxicity.

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