LAKE OKEECHOBEE (CBSMiami/CNN) – Despite a massive and expensive cleanup of Lake Okeechobee, toxic algae blooms are once again spreading throughout South Florida’s water supply, according to new test results.
The microcystin inside the bloom are twice the level of what the World Health Organization said is too toxic to drink, but one South Florida university is coming up with a new way to track the algae and try to combat it.
Malcolm McFarland is a research associate at the Florida Atlantic University Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. He said recent samples taken from Lake Okeechobee near Canal Point and Port Mayaca tested positive for toxic algae.
“Every summer we’re seeing blooms in the lake and it’s been increasing over the past five to 10 years I believe in the lake and it seems to be a yearly occurrence now that we get these blooms of microcystis the toxic algae happening in the lake,” said McFarland.
McFarland said the Florida Department of Environmental Protection also took samples that tested positive for toxic algae.
We asked if the public should be concerned.
“It’s definitely something to be concerned and be aware about if you are boating or fishing on the lake,” McFarland said.
Photos were snapped at the Outboards Only Marina in Rio, Florida and some people there were concerned the algae was making its way to the St. Lucie River.
“This thing yesterday was an anomaly. I don’t know what it was. What kind of algae it is but I can tell you it wasn’t the blue green kind,” said owner of the Outboards Only Marina Phil Norman.
McFarland said, so far this summer, he hasn’t seen any toxic blue-green algae in the St. Lucie River or in the estuary.
In fact, they’ve come up with a new tool that McFarland said is like an underwater microscope.
He said, typically, they would have to go out on a boat to collect samples and then bring them back to the lab which can be time consuming and expensive.
“With this we can basically throw it out there and it can be continuously recording images every hour,” said McFarland. “Then we just go collect data, look at the data and look at algae directly in the water column to try to determine what’s there.”
Experts hope to have the underwater microscope up and running within a few months.
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