County environmental agency: Avoid contact with algae

Palm Beach County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management sent a special email today alerting residents that it is aware of the algae concerns in the Intracoastal and hopes to have results back from testing within a week.

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From ERM:
June 23, 2016 Update
As a follow-up to our email message distributed this morning related to the ongoing Lake Worth Lagoon fishing and photography contests, we want to share that we are aware of an algae bloom currently affecting parts of the lagoon.

Palm Beach County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management staff members have observed the algae in the central portion of the lagoon, in the vicinity of the C-51 Canal, which borders the cities of West Palm Beach and Lake Worth. A blue-green discoloration along the shoreline is visible in portions of this part of the lagoon.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has taken samples of the algae for testing. It is anticipated that the results from these tests will be available within the next week. When available, results should be posted at the following website:https://depnewsroom.wordpress.com/south-florida-algal-bloo…/.

In the meantime, if you plan to recreate in the lagoon, it is recommended that you stay informed, take appropriate precautions and avoid direct contact with the visible bloom.

To view the Florida Department of Health’s blue green algae information card, visit: http://www.floridahealth.gov/…/_documen…/blue-green-card.pdf.

Residents from Lake Worth to downtown West Palm Beach have raised concerns about the algae bloom.

Lila Young, who owns a home on Washington Road in West Palm Beach along the Intracoastal said she’s never seen the algae this bad.

“I’ve owned this house for 30 years,” she said. “We’ll get some seaweed sometimes, but nothing like this.”

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Update 1:06 p.m.: The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will test the algae blanketing Summa Beach Park in West Palm Beach.

Randy Smith, a spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District, said DEP asked the district to send samples for examination after residents began asking about the green goo this week.

The C-51 canal, which is discharging about 6,050 gallons per second of runoff into the Intracoastal waterway just south of the park, may be the culprit, algae experts said.

“If this is something new that hasn’t happened before, then it could be an indicator that nutrients are increasing likely from human activities,” said Brian LaPointe, an expert in algae blooms and a a research professor with Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.

Previous story: A West Palm Beach park along the Intracoastal waterway has been blanketed by a bright green algae that has some residents concerned.

The so-called “green tide” was spotted at Summa Beach Park just north of the C-51 canal, which has been sending runoff from recent rains into the Intracoastal.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

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Algae blankets Summa Beach Park in West Palm Beach

Brian LaPointe, an expert in algae blooms and a a research professor with Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, examined a photo of the algae for The Palm Beach Post.

He said it’s hard to tell what type it is from a picture, but that it could be a product of the nutrient rich water from the canal being pumped into the brackish environment.

“You have a variety of different species that are opportunistic,” LaPointe said. “It’s all about the timing. They could be out there and then get a slug of freshwater carrying fertilizers and other runoff.”

Summa Beach Park in relation to C-51 canal (highlighted)

Summa Beach Park in relation to C-51 canal (highlighted)

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Randy Smith, a spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District, said the C-51 canal has been discharging water, but said it wasn’t clear if it was the culprit.

“The easy assumption is to say it’s coming out of the C-51, but this is a little north,” Smith said. “Bottom line is there is algae all over the place in South Florida right now.”

The water flowing out of the C-51 is runoff from multiple areas, including Wellington, Royal Palm Beach and the Lake Worth Drainage District. Smith said he doesn’t believe there is much Lake Okeechobee water going out the canal currently.

Lake Okeechobee has a large blue green algae bloom that was measured at 33 square miles last month. Because lake water is draining into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has been conducting tests of blue-green algae toxicity levels in those areas.

Smith said that most recent tests showed toxins in the lake, but not in samples taken at the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie locks.

Close up picture of algae on Summa Beach Park.

Close up picture of algae on Summa Beach Park.

Dee Ann Miller, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, said she wasn’t aware of any specific reports of algal blooms in the area of Summa Beach Park.

The DEP’s algae response website can be found here. 

“DEP and Florida’s water management districts frequently monitor Florida’s water quality, and routinely collect algal bloom samples as soon as they are observed as part of this effort,” Miller said. “In addition, staff can be deployed to take additional samples in response to reported blooms – whether from a citizen, other response team agencies or other sources.”

Health department spokesman Tim O’Connor said the department’s general recommendation is not to swim in the Intracoastal waterway near drainage canals. 

Just north of Summa Beach, the sandy park west of the Southern Boulevard bridge was free of algae.

“The think about algae is it can grow very quickly when nutrients are available,” LaPointe said. “They can double their biomass in one to two days.”

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