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Summer Heat Could Worsen Algae Blooms In Florida Waters

NASA Earth Observatory
This is what the toxic blue-algae bloom looked like in Lake Okeechobee from above on July, 2, 2016.

Scientists found blue-green algae again in Southwest Florida waters this week. The toxic algae has been plaguing beaches on the east coast for weeks now. Experts say this could get worse on both coasts now because of the summer heat.

Everglades Foundationecologist Steve Davis visited Lee County on Monday to observe the Caloosahatchee River up-close. Davis said this patch of bright green algae found in Cape Coral means Lake Okeechobee freshwater releases are not only spreading toxic algae, but also dumping more freshwater along with it, allowing the algae to thrive.

"Because the discharges have been going on for so long, that has made these estuaries fresher and conditions, therefore, more suitable for the growth and sustaining of these accumulations that we're seeing," said Davis. 

He said now that summer is here, Florida could see more blue-green algae soon.

"Light intensity plays a factor in that," he said. "We might see local hot spots. And this, I think, is just an indication of the beginning of that."

Davis said he thinks the only real solution is to move more Lake Okeechobee water flows south. Several environmental organizations, like the Everglades Foundation, are pushing for the state to buy land south of the lake, alleviating freshwater flows to the east and west coasts.

Jessica Meszaros is a reporter and host of Morning Edition at WUSF Public Media, and former reporter and host of All Things Considered for WGCU News.
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