Toxic Algae Found Near South Florida Beaches Prompt State Of Emergency

Toxic algae found on South Florida coasts this week have prompted a state of emergency declaration in several counties. Earlier today (July 1), green algae were found in the water off the shores of Peanut Island, located in Palm Beach County.

This discovery comes, of course, just in time for one of the biggest summer weekends of the year — the Fourth of July celebrations. Peanut Island is a popular site for Independence Day events, but the county director of aquatics, Laurie Schobelock, said the island won’t close down because of the algae.

Although they’ve deemed the beaches safe, the Palm Beach County Health Department confirmed earlier today that they’re issuing a “no swim advisory” for the waters around Peanut Island until further notice. Those planning to visit the island for the holiday may want to change their plans after all.

Red flags will be placed where algae were found, as a warning to visitors that they should stay away from the water.

Other counties in South Florida — Marin, Lee, and St. Lucie — have also discovered algae blooms in the water close to their beaches. According to WPBF local news, the water “thickened and turned pea green.” Four beaches in Marin county are under threat by the presence of algae.

Governor Rick Scott declared a state of local emergency in those counties, as well as Palm Beach. The state’s Department of Environmental Protection will visit the affected areas next week to conduct tests. Residents are encouraged to notify the DEP if they spot algae in any bodies of water.

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich posted a response on her Facebook page after Scott declared a state of emergency, making it clear that she firmly believes that the governor is to blame for the algae found on Florida’s southern coasts.

“Governor Scott… this is another one of those ‘Manmade Disasters’ we hear so much about these days… Guess who that ‘man’ is that caused this mess… YOU!” Brockovich wrote with a link to the news story.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, there are approximately 300 species of micro algae that typically create blooms, or masses, like those that have been discovered along the beaches in Florida. Of those 300, about a quarter are known to be toxic. Those are considered “harmful algal blooms.”

Massive harmful algal blooms can kill the marine life in the bodies of water they affect, since the algae consume large amounts of oxygen and deprive the fish living there. As the Inquisitr previously reported, thousands of dead fish, spanning 30 different species, washed ashore in the Indian River Lagoon in Florida in March; scientists blamed the event on algal blooms, although environmental activists emphasized careless human pollution and “government apathy.”

Appearing to have a thick, green consistency in the water, witnesses have described it as being similar to guacamole or pea soup.

The spread of harmful algal blooms can effectively destroy entire marine ecosystems, contaminate seafood supply, and negatively impact human health. Shellfish, often consumed by humans, don’t always show the visible effects when they’ve been contaminated by toxins, either before or after cooking, making prevention more difficult.

There are several illnesses that can result from ingesting contaminated seafood, although not all are fatal. Blue-algal toxins in drinking water can also cause illness in humans.

Between the algae found along Florida beaches and the fish dying earlier this year at Indian River, one has to wonder if this is a direct result of human impact and neglect. Erin Brockovich said it in her post, as have several people on social media in response to Peanut Island’s no swimming advisory.

More than likely, scientists and environmental activists will continue to weigh in on this in the coming weeks.

[Image via Shutterstock]