Blue-green algae causes health officials to close recreational area in Caloosahatchee River
State health officials released a public advisory Wednesday for the upper portion of the Caloosahatchee River estuary, saying the public should not swim there or touch the water.
The Florida Department of Health in Lee County says it found blue-green algae toxins in the waters surrounding W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam in Alva.
"DOH recommends individuals avoid contact with the water," the advisory says. "Blue-green algae can cause gastrointestinal effects if swallowed. Children and pets are especially vulnerable, so keeping them away from the water during a bloom is especially important."
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Some water quality advocates weren't surprised by the news.
"There have been small (cyanobacteria) blooms on the freshwater side of the lock in the past couple of weeks, and I’ve seen some just downstream of the lock in what we consider the upper estuary," said Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani. "It’s around."
Businesses related to the fishing industry in that area say they are worried the bloom will get worse and larger this summer.
"People are talking about it a lot," said John Lavalla, owner of Kathy's Bait and Tackle on the south side of the river downstream of the Franklin Lock. "I think the biggest thing is everybody’s worried what’s coming, and it’s really scary right now because we’re getting into the season where the tarpon are here and the snook are here."
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Lavalla said he was almost forced to close his business during the blue-green algae crisis of 2018, which caused large floating matts of toxic algae to blanket canals and smaller waterways.
"I really thing the biggest thing now is people are on edge," Lavalla said. "The big blooms, that’s the scary part. And the fishing in the river right now from Moore Haven to Fort Myers is probably the best I’ve seen in the last three years."
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Blue-green algae test samples are posted regularly by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP.
Health officials say the health department works with the state water management districts, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to respond to these types of events.
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