NewsRegion St Lucie County


Despite low toxins in state test results, local scientists find higher level of toxins in algae

Posted at 12:08 AM, Jun 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-15 00:08:47-04

New test results from researchers at FAU Harbor Branch show algae in the St. Lucie Estuary is becoming more toxic.

Researcher Malcom McFarland said Thursday that he received the results from samples taken from algae blooms late last week.

McFarland said the numbers were moderately high, as expected, since they were collected from dense surface slicks of algae.

The results are as follows:

-St. Lucie Lock (lake side): 12.6 ppb (parts per billion)
-Phipp’s Park: 5.18 ppb
-Riverland RV Park: 13.65 ppb
-Leighton Park: 12.22 ppb 
-Shepard Park: 16.71 ppb
-Flagler Park: 3.39 ppb

According to the EPA’s website, 1.6 µg/L [roughly 1.6 ppb] is the concentration of drinking water contaminants at which adverse health effects are not anticipated to occur over specific exposure durations.

Measurements above that, in turn, are not deemed safe for drinking.

“You would probably want to avoid swimming in it. Definitely wouldn’t want to drink it,” McFarland said.

Generally, McFarland said, these levels are above safe drinking water levels and would trigger public health advisories in some states. These results are separate from the testing done by the Department of Environmental Protection.

McFarland does make clear that the samples only represent the bright green slicks where algae is concentrated.

Clear water with no visible algae would not be so high in toxins.

McFarland expects to be taking more frequent samples for the near future as algae seems to be increasing.

“On the St. Lucie, it’s really dependent on the discharges from the canal and Lake Okeechbee. So, if those continue, [algae] could increase, but if those stop, then it will likely go away in the St. Lucie Estuary.”

Mark Nichols took a boat out at Shepard Park Thursday.

“Oh the water here is disgusting,” Nichols said.

He also owns DOA Fishing Lures, grateful his business no longer relies only on local waterways and fishermen.

“My business is fortunately more worldwide.”

But the local waterways, years ago, kickstarted his success.

“By being able to take someone here, catch a 30 inch trout or a big snook and go into the most beautiful waters I could show anybody.”

Now, times have changed. He’s hesitant to even go in the water.

“If I have any open cutes to anything I'm very aware of it.”