Originally published by The News-Press on May 26, 2023 by Amy Bennett Williams

Had they stared into a shaft of sunlight piercing the Caloosahatchee River on Thursday morning, boaters at the Alva dock might have seen spangles, as if the water were dusted with green micro-confetti.

Alas, nothing so festive is likely in store for the waterway, which is ripe for a cyanobacteria bloom, river-watchers worry.

A number of things point to a looming explosion of the one-celled organisms commonly called blue-green algae, many species of which occur naturally in Southwest Florida fresh water. Though they’re critical to natural systems, when they multiply, they can be trouble.

Some species produce toxins that cause health problems in people and animals ranging from itchy eyes and sneezing to liver failure ‒ even death, if ingested in sufficient amounts.

From Ralph Arwood’s pilot seat, the lake looks really bad. Arwood, who flies watershed reconnaissance for the nonprofit Calusa Waterkeeper, was at the lake Monday, shooting photos and video over its south and west portions.

“There were cyanobacteria blooms all over the area we flew,” he reports.

The size and rapid intensification of the lake bloom over the past couple weeks of the lake is worrisome, says Jason Pim, a Waterkeeper volunteer. Summer weather might help, but for now, Pim says “It’s too early to tell how the rainy season will play out. If its starts raining right away, that would not be good for potentially larger discharges from the lake to the Caloosahatchee.”

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