Residents and visitors to parts of the Sunshine State’s largest lake are being urged to exercise caution after harmful blue-green algae was recently detected by the Palm Beach County Health Department.
Florida health officials sent out an alert warning that an increase in warm temperatures and an excess in nutrients in Lake Okeechobee may be contributing to the algae, which can emit odors and produce toxins.
Algae is common along the freshwater lake, but large blooms can lead to negative impacts on wildlife and people who rely on clean water qualities.
“It is concerning, and unfortunately, it is becoming the norm and, we would like for that to not be the case,” said Jason Pim, a volunteer for the Calusa Waterkeeper.
Pim said a vast majority of the pollutants come from runoff of agricultural lands, and due to the scope issue, there is not a significant fix in the works.
A recent NOAA survey determined algae now covers over 35% of the 730 square mile lake, which undoubtedly will continue to increase through the summer.
“The really frightful year was 2018. We’re not to that point yet. What happened that year is that the rainy season started earlier,” said Pim.