Originally published by The News-Press on February 16, 2023 by Chad Gillis

A red tide bloom along the Southwest Florida coast appears to be spreading in size, according to state records, but some experts say toxic conditions may soon wane.

The most recent reports from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission show counts of 1 million cells per liter and higher in Lee County, with the bloom stretching from Tampa Bay to Florida Bay.

Lee and Charlotte Harbor are the hot spots at this point, with both posting toxic levels in recent days. Red tide can cause fish and marine mammals kills, and the toxins can become aerosolized and get into your respiratory system.

“The images show how the winds and currents move it around, and at the passes sometimes it’s really bad,” said Calusa Waterkeeper Emeritus John Cassani. “And that seems like fueling red tide from nutrient-laden water. I think it would be good to see some more comprehensive reporting and warning. There is still a DOH advisory out.”

Cassani was talking about images shot by local pilot Ralph Arwood, which show chocolate milk-colored waters.

“We see this colored water coming out the mouth of the river and it contrasts so much with the Gulf water and, usually you don’t’ see it this time of the year” Cassani said. “Usually it’s a rainy season problem. But it’s been running about 2,000 (cubic feet per second) at (the W.P.) Franklin (Lock and Dam in Alva) and that’s going to continue. So I would say on a scale of 1 to 10 river water quality would be 3 to 4 right now.”

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