Palm Beach County – The blue-green algae have bloomed in Lake Okeechobee, Florida, the South Florida Water Management District announced on Friday. The algae spread to more than 200 square miles.

People in the area has expressed their outrage and asked for help to stop the algae spread. More than 50 people gathered in the surroundings of the lake, they held signs and listened to individual speakers discussing the issue, as reported by WPTV.

In some photos, the algae covering Lake Okeechobee appears to be solid floor on the water's surface because it's so dense. Image Credit: Palm Beach Post
The algae covering Lake Okeechobee is so dense, it appears as if the water is solid enough to walk on it. Image Credit: Palm Beach Post

“It has to stop,” commented the event organized, Amy Lane. “We are poisoning our population. We are killing our economy. We have destroyed the environment.”

According to some engineers at the South Florida Water Management District, they are doing everything in their power to help with the algae spread. They are currently looking for ways to store the water on private properties and in public ones to keep it from either reaching Lake Okeechobee or into the St. Lucie Estuary, commented Randy Smith, spokesman for SFWMD.

Smith added that Governor Rick Scott’s emergency declaration they can now cut off water that would normally flow into the contaminated areas. Around 2.2 billion gallons of water are being held at the FPL’s cooling pond, north of the St. Lucie River, he said.

Also, the water management district is also holding 20 billion gallons of water in Lake Kissimmee, which would usually flow into Lake Okeechobee. This cuts down Lake Okeechobee’s water levels and reduces how much discharges.

“It is one of many things that are being done to provide some relief for this issue,” Smith told WPTV. “Ultimately the long-term is going to be finding a way to stop the nutrients from coming into the freshwater from the very source.”

Authorities warned to stay away from the algae

Health officials nationwide have warned the public to stay away from the blue-green algae present in the several lakes, which can have serious repercussions in humans and pets. The unofficial start of the summer provided the conditions for the algae to thrill, now reaching important territories.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state Department of Health assured that the blue-green algae blooms, more accurately known as the cyanobacteria, started forming on ponds and lakes statewide, as reported by the Associated Press.

Last summer presence of the algal blooms was reported in lakes across Minnesota, from near the Iowa border to the Canadian border. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) investigated two illness and multiple dog deaths related to the algae exposure and possible ingestion, according to a statement from the MDH

On an average basis, the appearance of the blue-green algae bloom and the unpleasant smell that comes with the plant keep most people away from the area. However, people still get sick after they swim, boat, water ski or bathe in water infected with the algae. During this already mentioned activities, people are always exposed to the toxins by swallowing or having skin contact with the infected water, or by breathing in tiny droplets of water in the air, the MDH stated.

Source: WPTV