Cyanobacteria Causes State of Emergency in Some Florida Counties

 An algal bloom. Image credit:

An algal bloom. Image credit:

     A State of emergency for Martin and St. Lucie Counties has been declared by Governor Rick Scott due to harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the local waterways. The algae- more specifically known as cyanobacteria- has been affecting waterways in four counties since May, presenting as a "thick, furry mold" on the surface of the water.

     Scott Sutherland, science writer for the Weather Network, wrote, "As a bloom spreads throughout the surface layer of lake water, the cyanobacteria release toxins known as microcystins into the environment. Simply swimming in water with high concentrations of microcystins can cause symptoms such as stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and weakness, as well as skin and eye irritation, sore throat and allergic reactions. If these toxins enter the drinking water supply in sufficient amounts, such as during extreme outbreaks, symptoms can develop that cause liver and kidney damage [and] life-threatening bouts of gastroenteritis, aka "stomach flu" (especially for children and the elderly)."

     While warm temperatures, sunshine and nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen are the primary cause of cyanobacterial blooms, the intensity of this year's blooms is the result of increased rainfall in the area (almost double last year's amount). The deluge has lead to an influx of nutrients that normally remain in the soil.

     The full article from the Weather Network is available here, or through the link available below.