DOH Health Alert: Blue-green algae toxins found in Caloosahatchee at Franklin Lock

The Florida Department of Health in Lee County (DOH) issued a health alert Thursday for the Caloosahatchee at W.P Franklin Lock & Dam based on reports of algae toxins found by the ramp.

The health alert brought back bad memories to a community a few miles down the river, just west of US-31.

Neighbors told us they’ve seen the algae in a nearby marina. Some told us they can smell it in the morning when they wake up and open their doors. It’s reminding them of their experiences with blue-green algae back in 2018.

Water experts say there are concerning similarities to what is being seen presently compared to the same time in 2018.

“Whether it’s windy or not, you can see it. It’s just swirling in the water,” said Albert Johnston, who lives along the river in North Fort Myers.

Johnston and his neighbors are already seeing it and smelling it.

“[2018] was maybe a little worse that what it is right now,” Johnston said. “But it’s getting pretty thick out there.”

Doug Petko isn’t happy about breathing it in once again.

“I’ve had some respiratory [issues] and the algae doesn’t help it,” Petko said.

Not a positive outlook, water expert says

“The outlook is horrific,” Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani told WINK News. “It’s shaping up just like 2018, but we’re ahead of schedule.”

Cassani says the water levels of Lake Okeechobee are also higher than they should be just weeks before hurricane season., not to mention the massive blooms already in the lake.

“The lake has a huge bloom on it, up to 500 square miles, and most of the fresh water reach of the river has significant cyanobacteria blooms on it,” Cassani said. “So we’ve already got a bad situation. What everyone’s worried about is, I think, is a big rain event.”

If we see a lot of rain this hurricane season, Cassani says that will mean more of the alga-filled water will be pushed toward Southwest Florida, making a bad situation worse.

“You hate to wake up in the morning, open the doors and breathe it in,” Johnston said. “It’s bad.”

Many of the neighbors in North Fort Myers along the river told us they are snowbirds, and they head back up north just as the algae returns. They say they feel bad for their neighbors who stay here and the businesses that are affected by the algae.

What to be aware of

When blue-green toxins are detected, DOH recommends individuals 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.

If you wish to report a new algae bloom please visit DEP’s Algal Bloom Monitoring & Response webpage.

Click here to see the blooms for yourself based on location.

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.

Reporter:Justin Kase
Writer:WINK News
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