Mystery algae washes up new concerns

LEE COUNTY, FL –It smells horrendous and it leaves a slimy, green film along the Sanibel Causeway.  They mystery algae that is spreading there can pose a dangerous health threat…

Researchers confirm it is a large scale algae bloom. Until now, they were trying to figure out why it was on SW Florida’s coast.  They blame the freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee a year ago.

“Ugh! That’s utterly disgusting,” said Gabrielle Harte of Sanibel.  “We were just walking and it smelled really bad.”  Harte walked away from the water, overwhelmed by the stench caused by the slimy goo next to her feet.  “You could smell it, you could see it… just, ugh… it’s awful.”

Others wondered what it could be which resembles something other than your typical algae bloom.

Jarrod Salisbury of Fort Myers was fooled at first.  “I noticed there was something out there… thought it was a sandbar.” WZVN News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral

Not a sandbar but rather a rare algae bloom called Lyngbia which is known to cause neurological disorders in humans.  Fortunately, it is not the kind capable of growing in this region. It does have its own threat.

“The problem is more of an ecological problem… where as you can see it’s growing on top of the sea grass blades… it competes for life,”said Dr. Eric Milbrandt, SCCF Marine Lab Director.

Lyngbia has not been spotted in SW Florida since 2006.

Flood kills as they are known are heavy water releases from Lake Okeechobee.  The news is not good to hear for beach goers.

“It’s kind of scary… I thought our beaches were cleaner than that,”said Jarrod Salisbury of Fort Myers.

While the water may not be dark like it was last year.  It is what lurks on the sea floor that last summer’s flood waters left behind is creating the algae bloom that is killing sea grass.

“It overgrows everything and causes what we’re experiencing now,”said Dr. Eric Milbrandt, SCCF Marine Lab Director.

Researchers said the water is safe to swim but it is best to avoid swimming into the algae since there is likely to be bacteria growing on it.

They will be testing the algae this week to measure and confirm its risk.  It is expected to be around all summer.


Lucas Seiler, ABC7

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