Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in counties on the state's Atlantic coast last week over expansive algae blooms in the St. Lucie River.
Scott's executive order in Martin and St. Lucie counties called on state agencies to take actions to address the thick toxic blooms that are ruining the river's ecology, devastating water-related businesses and that could potentially cause health problems for those in contact with the water.
The smelly, disgusting blue-green algae blooms plaguing the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon are the result of discharges flowing out of Lake Okeechobee in southeast Florida.
Since the discharges started Jan. 30, about 150 billion gallons of the lake's water has been sent to the river, dumping nutrients and lowering the salinity of the naturally brackish water. Both spur the growth of blue-green algae.
Is The Algae Harmful?
Samples taken in the river around Palm City and Stuart have tested positive for lower, but still hazardous levels of toxins.
Toxic algae can cause nausea and vomiting if ingested, and rash or hay fever symptoms if touched or inhaled. Drinking water with the toxins can cause long-term liver disease. Recent research suggests another toxin in blue-green algae can trigger neurological diseases such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and Lou Gehrig's disease.
For the first time, algae blooms have been spotted at Martin County beaches along the Atlantic Ocean. County officials have been monitoring the waters and closing beaches when the algae blooms pose a threat to residents.
What Can Be Done?
TCPalm, part of the USA TODAY NETWORK, has an online letter readers can fill out and send to lawmakers voicing their frustration over the algae.
Residents, environmentalists and the TCPalm Editorial Board have pleaded with lawmakers and state officials to take action.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time algae blooms have hit the Treasure Coast, so some wonder if anything has changed from the last algae outbreak or if it will ever change.
What's The Government Doing To Help?
Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in February to help businesses that were losing money because of the discharges.
In May, state Senate President-designate Joe Negron secured funds to keep Kilroy water sensors in the river and lagoon to monitor water quality. Negron also said he is working on a plan to present to the Legislature next year to cut Lake O discharges.
Environmental groups have been calling for the state to buy land south of Lake O to hold some of the water, but water managers and Scott haven't jumped on board.
Residents Take To Social Media
Angry residents have been posting photos and videos of the algae blooms affecting their neighborhoods.
Some have taken it a step farther, emailing their photos to lawmakers, demanding action.