Fort Lauderdale residents alarmed as algae blooms infest waterways

State officials say tests show 'green slime' contains low levels of toxins

By Sanela Sabovic - Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - It's unsightly, smelly and toxic. Now, South Florida residents and those in the marine industry are concerned about recent sightings of blue green algae in Fort Lauderdale's waterways.

Also known as Cyanobacteria, the algae has been found in canals off Las Olas Boulevard and in marinas off the New River near State Road 84.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is aware of the growing issue in Fort Lauderdale. Just last week, samples were tested off of Las Olas Boulevard and along the New River near Esplanade Park to determine whether it is a health hazard.

"Results to date for this specific sampling indicate low levels of toxins," the department said in a statement.

Geno Gargiulo is a professional diver, and he is worried about the health risks that algae blooms, which are often referred to as "green slime," can pose.

"We dive in the marinas and different things such as that and out it all falls down in the Intracoastal Waterway, and we've seen dead fish and things like that it's killing the visibility as well," Gargiulo said.

This summer, Lake Okeechobee has been plagued by blue green algae blooms. A large concentration of blooms has been polluting and killing the oxygen levels in the water, which poses a toxic threat to marine life.

"Anything that adversely affects marine life is bad for everybody. It upsets the balance in the water ... that causes other problems like a domino effect down the road," Gargiulo said.

Blue green algae can cause serious illness such as kidney and liver damage. So officials advise people not to swim near algae blooms and keep pets away from the water.

They also urge people not to fertilize lawns near waterways to lessen the impact of the blooms. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection urges people to report blooms using its website.

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