Algae thickens in Cape Coral canals, neighbors frustrated

Published: September 13, 2021 4:58 PM EDT
Updated: September 13, 2021 6:52 PM EDT

Big mats of green gunky algae sit atop the water in some SE Cape Coral canals, and it’s really starting to bother neighbors who live nearby.

In some areas, it’s so thick it looks like you could walk on it.

Referring to one area near the Rubicon Canal, which runs north from Bimini Basin, Cathy Corey and her husband say have never seen it like this, calling it, “Frustrating. Disappointing. We have a boat. We like to take our boat out. We like to kayak.”

She says it started popping up in small amounts about a week ago, but now, “It’s like carpeting. It’s solid,” she said.

Naturally, she’d like to see it all gone, “But I also want to see the government getting more involved and putting restrictions on what comes out of Lake Okeechobee,” Cathy explained. “Making sure the people who are taking care of our lawns here really have, know about the testing and know what should go in there.”

We brought a sample of the algae to said professor Barry Rosen with FGCU’s The Water School. He told us it’s called Pithophora, which is typically found at the bottom of waterways.

“If there’s any kind of currents, wind and wave action, or as the biomass gets, as it grows, and the growing season gets longer, it becomes so bulky, it actually dislodges and can float up,” Rosen explained.

While it’s harmless now, issues can happen if it decomposes.

“When it does that, you can have a fish kill, because fish can’t escape if it’s a large enough expanse; they can’t swim away from how much oxygen is lost,” Rosen said.

Rosen also said, if decomposing algae emits an odor, it’s not safe to breathe in. But for now, it’s harmless if you rake it out and let it dry out to remove it.

We reached out to the City of Cape Coral about the algae, and they say they are gathering information from multiple vendors about algae harvesting in the Rubicon Canal.

But for Cathy, she wants folks to take steps to prevent this too. “No phosphorous or nitrogen until November because it’s rainy season. Do not blow your cuttings into the canal, blow it back on the yard, it’s good mulch.”

All measures you can take to help reduce nitrogen and food for algae to grow.