Lake Okeechobee Toxic Algal Bloom Threatens To Spread To Coastal Estuaries

May 19, 2016

Scientists have been watching a large toxic algal bloom in Lake Okeechobee.

They worry the bloom could spread from the state’s largest lake through man-made canals to coastal estuaries like the Indian River Lagoon.

The toxic bloom began about a week ago in Lake Okeechobee and stretches several miles.

Paul Gray of Audubon of Florida said unless it dissipates, the bloom likely will spread as water managers continue to send large amounts of water from the rain-swollen lake to the estuaries.

“When you open the gate to flow water out of the lake they just flow right along with it," Gray said. "And they tend to stay at the surface so they can stay viable all the way down the canal and into the estuary.”

Gray said it’s too soon to know how heavy rain this week impacted the bloom.

A toxic bloom of the same algal species three years ago gripped the southern Indian River Lagoon, prompting advisories that people stay away from the water.