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Palm Beach County has most toxic algae blooms, test results find

DEP: Sample finds toxins 55 times higher than health advisory limit
An algae sample taken from Lake Okeechobee in Palm Beach County on May 5, 2021.jpg
Posted at 12:35 PM, May 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-07 18:24:42-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Test results from algae samples collected this week by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in Lake Okeechobee show toxic levels in blooms that exceed the health advisory limit of 8 parts per billion.

On May 3, an algae sample was collected in Martin County at the S308C lock that resulted in microcystin levels of 16 parts per billion.

On May 4, samples were collected in Martin County and in Glades County.

A sample in Martin County along Lake Okeechobee’s east shore resulted in 84 parts per billion of microcystin, the toxin found in blue-green algae.

A Glades County sample tested 17 parts per billion.

More samples were taken May 5 in Hendry County and Palm beach County.

Hendry County algae samples ranged from 47 to 53 parts per billion of microcystin.

Palm Beach County samples found microcystin levels ranging from 26, to 57 along the shore, to 440 farther into the lake, the highest result of the week. That is 55 times higher than the health advisory limit.

More samples in Martin County and Palm Beach County collected May 6 were still pending Friday.

The Army Corps of Engineers Friday said it is keeping a close eye on toxic algae blooms.

“We anticipate a higher level of algae on Lake Okeechobee this summer, again that is completely weather dependent,” said Colonel Andrew Kelly.

Kelly said algae will be a consideration when determining whether to release Lake Okeechobee water toward the St. Lucie Estuary this summer. Friday, Kelly said the corps will continue to hold off on releases to the east, while maintaining releases to the west.

That was good news to Indian Riverkeeper Executive Director, Mike Connor.

“The lake is really starting to blow up with toxic algae,” Connor said. “We bought some time. I think being very optimistic, 4th of July on the sandbar might be beautiful for people. It may still be nice if we don’t have any discharges that part of the summer,” Connor said.

He visits the C-44 canal several times a week to check in on algae blooms, finding algae developing inside the C-44 canal, but no blooms yet in the St. Lucie Estuary.

If the lock stays closed, he’s confident there will be no major blooms.

Col. Kelly said releases could happen in July if rain amounts exceed projections, but for now, “we can anticipate at this point, potential releases maybe in the September timeframe,” Col. Kelly said.

The lake is below 14 feet, but the Army Corps says it is still more than 2-feet higher than this time last year.