CAPE CORAL, Fla. Harmful algae has emerged in Lake Okeechobee, and muck spotted in a southeast Cape Coral canal is being tested to find out if it also poses a danger.
A significant algae bloom was discovered July 12 in Lake Okeechobee, and tests on a sample collected Tuesday revealed it to be Dolichospermum circinal — a harmful classification, according to the Department of Environmental Protection.
“It’s here — and it’s very bright green, like florescent green,” said Martin County resident Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch who captured video of the algae along with her husband.
The DEP is conducting further tests on the algae to determine its toxicity level, and it’s also testing a suspicious-looking sample from a canal near Bolado Parkway and Southeast 18th Street. For clean water activists like John Cassani, it’s a grim feeling of deja vu after similar problems last year led Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency.
“Here we go again,” said Cassani, director of the nonprofit Calusa Waterkeeper organization. “It’s happening, again and again and again. These blooms are becoming the new normal.”
Releases from Lake O are blamed for water quality issues in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, which connect the lake to the Gulf of Mexico.
“What goes on in Lake O is sometimes a reflection on what can happen here,” Cassani said. “So if those conditions are just right for a bloom in the lake, it’s probably going to happen in the Caloosahatchee pretty soon.”
Scott signed a bill earlier this year that speeds construction of a reservoir that would take on excess lake water, an idea supported by many environmentalists. He’s also lent strong support to the idea of repairing the Herbert Hoover Dike that surrounds the lake.