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Algae considered too dangerous for swimming discovered in Lake Okeechobee

Posted at 11:50 PM, Jun 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-11 05:02:54-04

Samples of blue-green algae in Lake Okeechobee have now tested at levels the Environmental Protection Agency considers unsafe for swimming.

In a sample collected June 5 near the center of the lake, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said test results, published this week, measured the toxin Microcystin at 17.6 parts per billion.

The EPA says swimming in concentrations at 8 parts per billion or higher can be harmful to your health.

The FDEP website shows six other samples of possible algae have been collected across the lake over the last 30 days.

RELATED: Florida DEP map of algae samples

On May 22, a sample collected near Clewiston came back with Microcystin toxin levels at 1.54 parts per billion, still considered safe for swimming, but above the safe drinking limit.

On May 22, a sample collected on Lake Okeechobee Northeast of Clewiston came back with Microcystin toxin levels of 2.09 parts per billion.

On June 5, a sample in Martin County came back with Microcystin toxin levels at 1.48 parts per billion.

Three samples did not test positive for any toxins.

Fisherman Chris Case, from Pahokee, says he is not worried about algae in the lake, for now. He still eats the fish he catches from the shore.

That has not always been the case.

“Two years ago, I think it was really bad. I didn’t do any fishing then,” Case said. The latest toxic sample reminds him to be watchful during the summer months.

“I hope they fix it, whatever needs to be done. I’m not a scientist or nothing, but whatever they need to do to fix it, I hope they get it done,” Case said.

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, a board member for the South Florida Water Management District, is also keeping her eyes on the lake.

“I wasn’t surprised at all…of course, it’s toxic,” Thurlow-Lippisch said. “I think the sample validates everything that we’ve done to try to keep the lake water in the lake this summer."

Currently, there are no releases from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary. Thurlow- Lippisch hopes that will not change. “This is the only place where the government dumps the algae onto people who live outside of its borders,” Thurlow-Lippisch said.

The latest information from the Army Corps of Engineers shows the lake level at 10.94 feet on June 9.

The state’s blue-green Algae task force will meet for the first time this week.