By: R. Michael Brown, Civic Association Communication Director -- The Palm Beach Civic Association office has received several inquiries regarding blue-green algae in the Lake Worth Lagoon and Intracoastal from our members and Directors. A greenish substance was observed by members and photographed in the Intracoastal.
The Civic Association contacted Terrie Bates, Water Resources Manager at the South Florida Water Management District, and Rob Weber, Town of Palm Beach Coastal Program Manager, and asked them about the potential sighting of blue-green-algae.
Photo: August, 2018 Courtesy of Bob Holuba
Ms. Bates responded that they had not released water into the C-51 Canal from Lake Okeechobee and don’t see a need to in the near future. She said Lake O water is being directed south.
Mr. Weber responded in an email as follows:
"Blue-green algae is currently not a problem in the Lake Worth Lagoon and is not threatening our beaches.
Please note that no blue-green algae has been observed by either Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), or Palm Beach County Environmental Resource Management (PBERM) east [downdrift] of the 2nd spillway structure near Southern Blvd. and State Road 7 within canal C-51 in 2018.
- Blue-green algal bloom impacts to the Lake Worth Lagoon/Palm Beach Inlet/Beaches would most likely occur from canal C-51 discharges.
- Town of Palm Beach staff visually observes the conditions both west (updrift) and east (downdrift) of the C-51 spillway structure near Federal Highway on a weekly basis.
- Town of Palm Beach staff reviews online reporting through the FDEP website on a daily basis.
- Palm Beach County ERM visually observes the entire length of canal C-51 from Lake Okeechobee to the Lake Worth Lagoon approximately every two (2) days.
- FDEP performs all reporting, documenting, and testing for blue-green algae.
Testing results are reviewed by the Florida Department of Health and notices to the public are provided, if necessary.
Photo: Docks, August 28, 2018 Courtesy of Brad Gary
Any sightings of blue-green algae should be reported through FDEP using the following link: https://floridadep.gov/dear/algal-bloom or calling FDEP at (855) 305-3903."
In the meantime, the Civic Association will continue to watch the waterway.
Background and Latest News
Highly toxic blue-green algae — nearly 50 times the level considered hazardous — was found in an Aug. 23 sample taken from the C-44 (St. Lucie Canal) in Martin County, where Lake O water enters the St. Lucie River.
Image: Blue-green algae in Lake O on August 14, 2018.
A sample taken just feet away from there last week was not toxic, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Microcystin, the toxin in the blue-green algae, can cause nausea and vomiting if ingested and rashes and hay fever symptoms if touched or inhaled. Drinking water with the toxin can cause long-term liver disease.
Treasure Coast Congressman, Rep. Brian Mast [R], introduced a bill in Congress Tuesday night which defines "public health and safety" as managing lake levels in a way that:
- Minimizes potential of toxic blue-green algae blooms
- Prevents discharges containing toxins into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers
- Ensures enough water moves south to the Everglades, Florida Bay and the Caloosahatchee watershed.
"Our health and human safety here is not mentioned at all when it comes to Lake Okeechobee, and that has to stop," the Palm City Republican said at a Tuesday news conference to unveil his bill. "What we're demanding is that we be given priority as well."
Current Lake Okeechobee Water Levels
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers just announced today that water flows from Lake Okeechobee will continue into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers until further notice.
The Corps announced Thursday that the water flow at W. P. Franklin Lock and Dam will be a constant 3,000 cubic feet per second (cfs).
That's higher than the previous 14-day average set on August 24th of 2,000 cfs on a pulse schedule.
They are however reducing the amount flowing in pulse releases into the St. Lucie River from 1,500 cfs over the last two weeks to 1,170 cfs over the next seven days.
According to the Corps, Lake Okeechobee is currently at 14.66 feet above sea level, almost a foot higher than it was at this time last year. During the past week, lake levels rose 0.06 feet, with a 0.27 foot rise in the past 30 days.
South Florida Water Management District meteorologists estimate that Tropical Storm Gordon dropped approximately 1- 1.5 inches of rain over Lake Okeechobee within the last 7 days,
The current potential for hurricanes, now in the peak of the season, is a threat to the water levels in the lake.