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Viewer captures disturbing video of manatees swimming in algae

Viewer captures disturbing video of manatees swimming in algae

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has temporarily stopped releases of algae-laden water from Lake Okeechobee to the Stuart area.

Even so, the potentially toxic algae has become so pervasive in places, it’s hard for people or critters to avoid.

While manatees are not as numerous in South Florida this time of year, a CBS12 viewer captured video of several of the sea cows, possibly a family group, swimming in water filled with blue-green algae.

The video was recorded near Port Mayaca, where from June 1 through June 28, the U.S. Corps of Engineers had released water, often full of algae, from Lake Okeechobee down the St. Lucie Canal toward Stuart.

“The hazard to the manatees would be if this is a toxin-producing form,” said Florida Atlantic University research professor Bill Louda, Ph.D., who’s studied algal blooms for years.

Louda had come to Lake Okeechobee to grab his own samples from the large blue-green algae bloom now on the lake.

“It’s a liver toxin,” Louda said. “Manatees are mammals. So it’s going to affect them pretty much the same as it affects humans.”

State testing of the algae in Lake Okeechobee and from the St. Lucie Canal and River, confirms a potentially toxic form of algae.

To date, local samples have only reached low toxic levels. The highest reading came two weeks ago, from a sample collected from Lake Okeechobee at Canal Point in Palm Beach County.

As for the manatees in the video, Louda said the level of toxicity of that algae will determine how much the manatees could be harmed.

“So it depends upon how much they ingest, get in their nose… as to how much problem it’s going to be to the manatee,” he said.

State crews continue to sample the algae to determine if it has reached a toxic level.

CBS12 News is monitoring monitor the developments.

Track algae testing in Florida through an interactive map. Call 855-305-3903 to report an algal bloom, or go online.

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