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In Malcom McFarland’s lab at Florida Atlantic Harbor Branch in Fort Pierce, you’ll find all things algae.
“That’s probably an algal cell right there,” McFarland referenced.
McFarland is a research associate. He spends a good amount of time taking samples from Lake Okeechobee. This week he found high levels of microcystis a toxic blue-green algae.
“Some of these still have some microcystis floating around in them,” he said.
McFarland says microcystis releases a microcystin that can be harmful to your health.
“It’s toxic to the liver, primarily, but it can also cause some other gastrointestinal or allergic-type effects,” McFarland said.
He says the high concentration of microcystis in Lake Okeechobee is a cause for concern.
“The fact that it is continuously a problem every summer in the lake seems to indicate a problem that we probably need to take some steps to sort of mitigate this problem,” he said.
McFarland says so far they’ve only seen microcystis in Lake Okeechobee, not the St. Lucie Estuary. But still, people like Mary Radabaugh at Central Marine in Martin County worry that could easily change.
“We keep our fingers crossed every day,” she said.
Even though there haven’t been discharges from Lake Okeechobee, a major storm or hurricane could spread the harmful algae.
Radabaugh says she has already noticed a change in the water.
“We’ve been seeing the milky color which indicates there is something in our water column,” she said.