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Department of Health issues alert for blue-green algae toxins in Cape Coral’s Makai Canal

The Florida Department of Health in Lee County (DOH) has issued a health alert for the Makai Canal in Cape Coral based on reports of algae toxins found in the water that has been there since July.

The DOH said, when blue-green algae is visible, they recommend people avoid contact with the water.

Blue-green algae can cause gastrointestinal effects if swallowed. Children and pets are especially vulnerable, so keeping them away from the water during a bloom is especially important.

While some blame runoff from the Palmetto-Pine Country Club golf course for the toxic algae in the canal, club president Gerry Karlen says, “There are a lot of yards around this golf course that drain eventually into our ponds from the city storm sewers … Also, yards that drain into the makai.”

He gave us a tour to show us why he doesn’t believe that’s the case, explaining, “It’s the water that comes into us from the city to our ponds and we pumped in from the Makai.”

The City said the source of the algal bloom is not yet known, but it’s working with state agencies to come up with possible mitigation options.

Dr. Mike Parsons, a professor at The Water School at FGCU says, “Unfortunately, you almost need a bloom to understand how it happens and why it happens.”

In the meantime, and with the help of FGCU, the city placed air samplers near the canal to collect data on how the bloom may impact air quality.

Water experts don’t believe Lake Okeechobee water releases are contributing to this bloom.

Possible sources could range from wildlife moving from canal to canal to nutrient runoff. However, the toxins have to be present in the water to lead to the bloom.

If you see algae,  you can report a new freshwater algae bloom by visiting the DEP’s Algal Bloom Monitoring & Response webpage.

The DEP will continue to post updates for the Makai Canal on their website here.

DEP, the five water management districts, DOH, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services all work together to respond to algal blooms. DEP has been closely monitoring and testing algal blooms and will continue to respond to any new reports.

MORE: Algae showing up in Cape Coral canal; state dashboard allows you to track sampling

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
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