Rare, non-toxic algae bloom suspected in additional Island locations

City environmental specialist Nancy Richie takes a sample from the waterway near Menorca Court Monday to test for what she believes is another site of a third rare algae bloom on Island in the last three weeks.

Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff

City environmental specialist Nancy Richie takes a sample from the waterway near Menorca Court Monday to test for what she believes is another site of a third rare algae bloom on Island in the last three weeks.

— After reports of one rare algae bloom in a canal on Marco Island and another in the Port Royal neighborhood of Naples, two additional suspected incidences of the algae were reported on Island over the weekend.

Tests show that blooms of a rare algae in canals on Marco Island and in the Port Royal neighborhood in Naples do not contain the same toxin as red tide, pollution monitors said.

That means the algae blooms do not pose the same kind of health risk as red tide poses to people with chronic respiratory ailments, such as asthma or emphysema. Red tides can exacerbate these conditions and cause fish kills.

Fish kills are still possible with the blooms of Takayama tuberculata if the algae sucks enough oxygen out of the water, reported city environmental specialist Nancy Richie and county pollution control specialist Rhonda Watkins.

The Takayama blooms represent the first time the algae species has been recorded in Florida, according to scientists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in St. Petersburg.

“We’re not really sure if it’s actually rare or we’re just paying more attention to these things,” Richie said.

Scientists say they do not know what caused the blooms. The Marco Island bloom was reported in early May, before the onset of summer rainy patterns; the Port Royal bloom was reported May 28.

Richie said the blooms are not likely a cause of stormwater runoff as the algae does not seem to be feeding off an increase in the phosphates or nutrients common in fertilizers.

“We’re thinking at this time that it may be a result of increased salinity, which Rookery Bay has reported this year due to minimal rain,” Richie said.

The bloom has come and gone over the last couple weeks at the site of the first case near Copperfield Court reported on Marco, she added.

Richie went to two more suspected locations of the algae Monday afternoon and took water samples. She said the samples, taken from where the algae was found, at the end of canals near seawalls, was most easily accessible using an extension pole from the side of the seawall.

One, reported by resident Mark Brando in canal off Blackmoore Court, near Tigertail Beach, had appeared to dissipate when she arrived and the other was in what Richie described as “stage two” of the bloom.

The blooms of the rare, but non-toxic algae, starts out an orange, brown substance that appears almost as if the bottom of the canal has been stirred up, Richie said.

Then it turns stringy and lighter in color as seen at Bonnie and Donny Urbano’s home, located at the end of a canal near Menorca Court, Monday

Finally, it looks like mucus, Richie said.

Results of water samples that Naples natural resources managers took from a city boat Thursday confirmed that the Port Royal bloom has diminished from very high concentrations of 4 million cells per liter to medium concentration of 175,000 cells per liter, Watkins reported today.

Neither red tide nor Takayama was found in any of the samples of water collected this week from Collier County’s beaches, according to this week’s red tide report.

The algae blooms turned the water a rust red color in the first reported Marco bloom, which was a canal on the west side of Copperfield Court, and turned the water yellow in canals around Gin Lane in Port Royal. The blooms contain a stringy mucous-like material and the Port Royal bloom appears to had dissipated, Richie reported Monday.

More information on the algae provided by Richie is available on marconews.com. Contact city environmental specialist Nancy Richie, 389-5003 or e-mail nrichie@cityofmarcoisland.com, to report suspected algae blooms in Marco waterways.

Collier County pollution control specialist Rhonda Whatkins may be reached at 252-2502 or e-mail RhondaWatkins@colliergov.net.

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