Advocate calls for algae warning signs on Lake Okeechobee

Advocate calls for algae warning signs on Lake Okeechobee

Unlike in 2016, the potentially toxic blue-green algae has yet to show up in coastal Palm Beach County.

But there is currently algae in and near Lake Okeechobee. Water managers have sent at least some water from Lake Okeechobee to the West Palm Beach Canal this year to reduce the need for releases to coastal Martin County.

On Wednesday, Reinaldo Diaz showed CBS12 News a jar of water filled with algae, or cyanobacteria. Diaz said he collected his sample from Canal Point near Lake Okeechobee— in Palm Beach County.

“The cyanobacteria had a chance to really float to the surface and create that green matting that looks like neon green, pea soup,” Diaz said.

Diaz said he grew up in Palm Beach County, fishing, diving and paddling.

Last fall, Diaz and others formed a group called Lake Worth Waterkeeper to advocate for the Lake Worth Lagoon and waters connected to it, including Lake Okeechobee.

Diaz saidhe found algae at Canal Point and Belle Glade on Tuesday, and adults and small children were fishing in it.

CBS12 News encountered the same scenario on a visit to Canal Point a couple weeks earlier.

Diaz said he conducted his own field test, which showed the algae had climbed above the toxic level.

“At both sites, there were no posted signs that warned them of the cyanobacteria, that warned them of some of these problems that can occur,” he said.

Diaz feels there should be signs posted, warning of both the algae and the potential health problems.

It’s a different story in Martin County, where signs warn the public in Stuart, Palm City, and even on Lake Okeechobee, at the Port Mayaca lock.

“We should absolutely have that in Palm Beach, we should have it statewide,” said Diaz, who added there should be statewide protocols for algae emergencies.

A spokesman for the Palm Beach County Health Department referred us to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on this issue.

A DEP spokeswoman emailed CBS12 News, saying the Department of Health can post signs when warranted, but that health experts always advise people to avoid it.

Track algae testing through an interactive map. And call 855-305-3903 or go online to report algal blooms.

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