NewsTreasure Coast


Blue-green algae presence at Lake Okeechobee causing concern on Treasure Coast

'It could lead to a devastating summer, Congressman Brian Mast says
Posted at 7:48 PM, Apr 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-19 19:48:01-04

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — Concerns over blue green algae continue on the Treasure Coast after blooms were found at Port Mayaca on Monday.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is now testing the algae to see if it's toxic. The EPA has now stated that it is unsafe at any level above 8 parts per billion.

If it is, that could cause serious concern for boaters, fishermen and other recreators.

On Monday, the DEP found an algae bloom index of 12, which is the highest bloom index possible.

Screen Shot 2023-04-19 at 3.52.54 PM.png
DEP's Algae Bloom Index

“It’ll continue to bloom as long as it has those right conditions, the nutrients, the sunlight," said Executive Director of Florida Oceanographic Society Mark Perry. "Because, we know last year at the end of the year we had a lot of rainfall due to hurricane Ian so all of that nutrients entered the lake."

Perry said he was concerned about the intensity of the algae blooms but also how early they seem to be starting.

"We expect some pretty big blooms, and we definitely don’t want to be discharging that into these estuaries," said Perry.

"And these are blooms that we typically do not see until at least June, that’s one of the most concerning things, how much earlier they are showing up, and it could to a devastating summer," added Congressman Brian Mast.

Congressman Brian Mast 04192023.jpg
Congressman Brian Mast explains the affects of blue-green algae could have on estuaries this summer.

Mast said he was concerned, too.

"This is a lake that in the summer time gets covered by extremely toxic algal blooms. Some of the most toxic in the world. But what can be done is not transfer that toxin into the water.”

Thankfully, this time around it's not being transferred into Martin County's waterways. Perry said Army Corps of Engineers did stop discharging into the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers on Saturday after algae blooms were spotted.

Mast and Perry said they both still fear as we get into the rainy season, if the water levels of Lake Okeechobee get too high, we'll have to discharge into our estuaries, blooms or not.

"That’s why the policy has to change, more infrastructure needs to be built," said Mast.

"We’ve had here over 195 billion gallons discharged to the St Lucie River," said Perry. "That’s about 620 days of water supply for Miami-Dade. That water should be going south.”

Executive Director of Florida Oceanographic Society Mark Perry 04192023.jpg
Executive Director of Florida Oceanographic Society Mark Perry shares concerns about algae blooms.

As of Wednesday, WPTV did not see any blue-green algae at Port Mayaca, and DEP's water assessment showed clear waters.

Perry said that's likely, because storms of the weekend may have dissipated the algae.

Carol Grube, a resident of Stuart for 13 years, said she's concerned about the algae.

"Here we go again," said Grube. "I mean, I don’t want it at all.

Grube recalled the "lost summer of 2013," when waterways were shut down, because of the presence of blue-green algae.

“I mean, we’re heading into the rainy season already, I don’t know what they’re going to do," said Grube.

Perry said DEP's assessment of the toxicity of blue-green algae should be released in a few days.