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Blue-green algae at Indiantown boat ramp 100 times more toxic than what's considered safe

'We're expecting this to be getting even worse on into September,' Mark Perry says
Posted at 6:36 PM, Aug 09, 2023

INDIANTOWN, Fla. — The excessive heat across South Florida is fueling more toxic blue-green algae along the Treasure Coast.

The Florida Department of Health in Martin County issued a health alert Tuesday for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in the C44 Canal near the boat ramp at Timer Powers Park in Indiantown.

Samples taken by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection showed some of that algae contained a microcystin toxin level of 800 parts per billion, which is 100 times more toxic than the level the Environmental Protection Agency deems harmful to humans.

WPTV noticed vibrant streaks of blue-green algae still surrounding the dock at the park Wednesday.

Mark Perry, the executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society, worries that the toxic algae issues on the Treasure Coast will continue to get worse this summer.
Mark Perry, the executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society, worries that the toxic algae issues on the Treasure Coast will continue to get worse this summer.

"We knew that this year might be a very big bloom, and we're right," Mark Perry, the executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society, said. "Here the conditions [are] perfect."

Perry said considering 80-90% of Lake Okeechobee was covered with blue-green algae this summer, and the fact that the majority of the summer was under a heat advisory, he's not surprised the blue-green algae is now in the C44 Canal.

Yet it also means the fears he's been preaching all summer are starting to come true.

"We're concerned that this continues to go on downstream," Perry said.

Perry said the Army Corps of Engineers recently opened the Port Mayaca floodgates to discharge nearly 9 million gallons of water from Lake Okeechobee into the canal in an effort to lower the lake, which is now over 15 feet.

"They're making these releases to try to raise the level in the canal," Perry said.

Yet the water, laden with algae, is now likely fueling the blooms in the canal, which is seeping ever closer to the St. Lucie Estuary.

Scott Watson, owner and operator of the Indiantown Marina, shares his thoughts on the blue-green algae problems in Martin County.
Scott Watson, owner and operator of the Indiantown Marina, shares his thoughts on the blue-green algae problems in Martin County.


"As you get further into the estuary, now you're exposing even more of the community to that because there's more of the boating community there, fishing community, more people living along the waterfront," Perry said.

With plenty of heat still ahead, and the possibility of tropical storms, Perry said he isn't feeling optimistic.

"We're expecting this to be getting even worse into September," Perry said.

Just about 2 miles away from Timer Powers Park, Scott Watson at the Indiantown Marina is seeing their own blue-green algae.

"We've got a light haze of blue-green algae," Watson said.

However, Watson wasn't too concerned.

"I've owned and operated Indiantown Marina for 21 years," Watson said. "It comes and goes. It's nothing to get excited about, as far as I'm concerned."

Watson said the only downturn in his business that he sees is caused by people afraid of the algae, not the algae itself, adding he's survived blue-green algae for decades, and says he'll survive this round again.

"Being on the water here at Indiantown Marina for 21 years and being out on the water constantly, it's cyclical, you know?" Watson said.

Perry said if you're near the blue-green algae at Timer Powers Park, you might want to wear a mask. While the algae isn't known to have immediate effects on the body, Perry said studies have shown it could cause neurological disorders later on in life if breathed in.