Jim Harter likes to spend every day on the water, but this Palm City boater is concerned over a potential repeat of the lost summer of 2016.
“The toxins that are released from the algae coming down from Lake Okeechobee," said Harter Monday from the St. Lucie Lock. Harter was watching as the Lock was reopened and freshwater at the rate of 500,000 gallons per second poured into the C-44 canal.
“I saw ugly dirty brown water with a green shiny slick of green algae on the top," said Mike Glynn who lives nearby in Locks Landing.
Algae has covered a large patch of Lake Okeechobee just outside the Port Mayaca Lock. On Monday, some of that algae was spotted inside the lock. A sign nearby tells residents to avoid coming in contact with the water.
So far, some of the algae samples in Martin County taken by the state have found low levels of toxicity, but below the levels considered hazardous by the World Health Organization.
Still, the continued release of freshwater has Harter wondering how much more the estuary can take.
“It would take at least two weeks of no releases at all for the salinity levels to get above zero," said Harter.
The Department of Environmental Protection was out taking algae samples Monday, one at Port Mayaca and two in Glades County.
Slightly thicker algae was spotted at a marina in Indiantown.
A spokesman with the Army Corps of Engineers say they are aware of the algae heading east. They plan to release freshwater through Wednesday, then begin to dial down the intensity on Thursday heading into the weekend.