- The cyanobacteria, commonly called blue-green algae, contained 0.18 parts per billion of the toxin cylindrospermopsin on May 23
- At high concentrations — in the 15 parts per billion range —the toxin can cause an upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea and liver and kidney damage
- The public is urged to avoid making contact with the water
People should avoid contact with northern Stick Marsh’s water because it contains potentially harmful toxic algae, state health officials warned Friday.
The cyanobacteria, commonly called blue-green algae, contained 0.18 parts per billion of the toxin cylindrospermopsin on May 23, according the latest Department of Environmental Protection data.
At high concentrations — in the 15 parts per billion range — the toxin can cause an upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea and damage to the liver and kidneys, according to Charles Vogt, an environmental specialist at the Florida Department of Health office in Indian River County.
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Below: Here’s the area where the blue-green algae toxin was detected, according to the Florida Department of Health in Indian River County
While the traces detected at the Stick Marsh are comparatively low, Vogt urged the public to avoid physical contact with the water. The Stick Marsh, which is not used for drinking water, is popular among recreational fishers, especially those angling for bass.
“The water bodies out there are starting to warm up. It’s consistent with what we’d normally see this time of year,” Vogt told TCPalm Friday. That means algal blooms typically will flare up with increased temperatures and added rainfall.
The toxins were detected near Fellsmere Grade Road, about five miles due west of the St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park.
The same toxin was detected in West Palm Beach’s drinking water supply last year. The city did not alert the public until about nine days later, according to the Palm Beach Post.
This is the third toxic algae alert for the Treasure Coast this year. The DOH office in Martin County issued a water advisory for the Port Mayaca area Jan. 3 after water monitors recorded 0.25 parts per billion of a separate algae toxin called microcystin. Another alert was issued April 4 for the same area.
DOH advises these precautions:
- Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski or boat in waters where there is a visible blue-green algae bloom.
- Wash your skin and clothes with soap and water if you have contact with algae or water that’s discolored or smelly.
- Keep pets away from the area. Water containing algae blooms are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should have a different source of water when algae blooms are present.
- Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins.
- Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe, but rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts and cook the fish well.
- Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.
How to report algae blooms
DEP collects and analyzes algal bloom samples.
- Report algae sightings to DEP online or via its toll-free hotline at 855-305-3903.
- Report fish kills to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute at 800-636-0511.
- Report symptoms from exposure to an algal bloom or any aquatic toxin to the Florida Poison Information Center at 800-222-1222.
Contact your veterinarian if you believe your pet has become ill after consuming or having contact with water containing cyanobacteria (blue-green algae). If you have other health questions or concerns, call DOH-Indian River at 772-794-7440.
Max Chesnes is a TCPalm environment reporter focusing on issues facing the Indian River Lagoon, St. Lucie River and Lake Okeechobee. You can keep up with Max on Twitter @MaxChesnes, email him at [email protected] and give him a call at 772-978-2224.