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Toxic algae bloom at Pahokee Marina prompts health alert

Alert does not impact drinking water
Posted at 12:12 PM, Jun 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-07 12:20:43-04

PAHOKEE, Fla. — A health alert was issued Tuesday for the presence of toxic algae at the Pahokee Marina.

Blue-green algal toxins were found following water samples taken on June 1, according to the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County.  

"I would definitely advise people to take it seriously and use common sense if you see nasty green water," said Malcom McFarland, PhD a research associate at FAU Harbor Branch, who is studying the algae.

"You can see quite a bit a large surface area of the lake is covered with these algae blooms," McFarland said referring to the satellite images he has seen.

Officials said the public should exercise caution in and around the marina. The alert impact does not impact drinking water.

The recommendation is people and pets should avoid contact the water, and carefully rinse fish caught from the water.

Malcolm McFarland, Ph.D., a research associate at FAU Harbor Branch June 5 2023.jpg
Malcolm McFarland, Ph.D., a research associate at FAU Harbor Branch, says people should take toxic algae blooms seriously.

The current bloom is not as severe as the one in April 2021 when clumps of the algae covered most of the marina.

Algae has become a common occurrence in the lake in recent years and the main concern is over controlled water releases that in past years led to algae outbreaks along the St. Lucie River and estuary.

Recent data does indicate there have not been releases by the Army Corps of Engineers from the lake to control levels heading into hurricane season.

"I believe the Army Corps has gotten more sensitive to this problem,” McFarland said. "They released water early before the bloom was active, so I think they got ahead of the game."

Toxic algae bloom near boat ramp at Pahokee Marina June 6 2023.jpg
Toxic algae bloom near boat ramp at Pahokee Marina June 6, 2023.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have contact with algae or discolored or smelly water.
  • Keep pets away from the area. Waters where there are algae blooms are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should have a different source of water when algae blooms are present.
  • Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins.
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts and cook fish well.
  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.

Blue-green algae is a type of bacteria that is common in Florida's freshwater environments.
A bloom occurs when the rapid growth of algae leads to an accumulation of individual cells that discolor water and often produce floating mats that emit unpleasant odors.

Experts say some environmental factors that contribute to blue-green algae blooms are sunny days, warm water temperatures, still water conditions and excess nutrients.

Toxic algae bloom at Pahokee Marina June 6, 2023.jpg
Toxic algae bloom at Pahokee Marina June 6, 2023.

Blooms can appear year-round but are more frequent in summer and fall.

To report an algal bloom to the Department of Environmental Protection, call 855-305-3903 or report it online.

Fish kills can be reported by contacting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute at 1-800-636-0511.