Algae blooms across SWFL leave residents wondering if tap water is safe to drink

Algae blooms cover Southwest Florida waterways, leaving many residents wondering if it is safe to drink water from the tap or not.

“Started to get worst with the clumping of the sludge on top,” said North Fort Myers resident Mark Richey.

The smelly blue-green algae bloom in North Fort Myers is keeping neighbors inside, like father and son Mark and Colton Richey, respectively.

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“Oh yeah, the longer I stay out here, because the dogs like to play out here. I get headaches and get woozy, and then go inside,” Colton Richey said.

It’s the worst they have ever seen in their canal.

“For the last three years, this turning green, it all starts when the Lake O releases,” Mark Richey said. “It gets worse from there.”

After seeing the algae, many wonder if it is OK to drink tap water.

Lee County, Cape Coral and Fort Myers utilities say the algae is not impacting their supply.

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“We actually don’t come out here often when it’s like this,” said Alva resident Larry McDowell. “We don’t fish, I wouldn’t eat anything out of the river right now.”

McDowell lives next door to the Olga Water Treatment Plant, the only plant that pulls water straight from the Caloosahatchee. It has been closed for maintenance for months, according to the county.

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But seeing the algae in their backyards, residents aren’t leaving anything to chance.

“I imagine they can filter it pretty well, but I don’t know if I’d drink it,” McDowell said. “I’d probably drink bottled water.”

This time last year, the Olga Water Treatment Plant was closed for maintenance.

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Reporter:John-Carlos Estrada
Writer:Emily Ford
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