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Pinellas Warns About Blue-Green Algae; Beaches Still Open

In late May 2010, water samples taken at the lower St. Johns River (St. Johns and Putnam counties indicated high concentrations of a harmful cyanobacterium (blue-green alga) species, Aphanizomenon cf. flos-aquae.
Courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Pinellas County officials are urging residents and visitors to stay away from some blue-green algae blooms that have popped up in the last week.

Lyngbya, which is actually a bacteria, has been reported in the canals west of the Gulfport Casino, and in the Intracoastal Waterway by Treasure Island.

The algae can be harmful to the health of animals and people.

"What we want to advise the public is to avoid contact with it and keep your pets away. Lyngbya, in particular, is toxic to pets, and especially if it gets in their fur,” said Tony Fabrizio, Public Information Officer for Pinellas County. ”And in humans, it can cause sore throats and watery eyes."

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:

Common in most of Florida's aquatic environments, many cyanobacteria species are capable of producing harmful toxins (cyanotoxins). Cyanobacteria can cause unsightly blooms; cause taste and odor problems in public water supplies and can kill domestic animals, pets, and fish and wildlife that drink or are otherwise exposed to untreated contaminated water or toxic biota.

Cyanobacterial blooms are common in Florida lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds. Approximately 20 cyanobacteria species in Florida's waters are capable of producing toxins, including bloom-forming species of Microcystis, Cylindrospermopsis, Anabaena, Aphanizomenon, Lyngbya, and Planktothrix.

Fabrizio said higher water temperatures cause these blooms.

"These tend to dissipate when we get any kind of significant rain that drops the water temperature a couple of degrees and stirs up the water,” Fabrizio said.

Calm water and minimal rain have caused several blooms throughout the area since May.

Fabrizio said Pinellas County beaches are still open to the public.

Blue-green algae blooms along with dead, diseased, or abnormally behaving fish or wildlife can be reported to the FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute online at  Fish Kill Hotlineor by phone at  800-636-0511

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Daylina Miller is a multimedia reporter for WUSF and Health News Florida, covering health in the Tampa Bay area and across the state.
Daylina Miller
Daylina Miller, multimedia reporter for Health News Florida, was hired to help further expand health coverage statewide.