What we know about the toxic algae bloom in the Caloosahatchee River

Chad Gillis
The News-Press
Patches of algae stack up against the Franklin Locks on the north side on Tuesday 6/26/2018.

A freshwater algae bloom has been growing in Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers since early June. 

Satellite imagery shows that as much as 90 percent of the lake has had algae at the surface in recent weeks, and that algae has shown up in both river systems. 

Here's what we know now: 

1. The algae is toxic to humans and other animals, is known to cause tumors and is associated with liver damage and neurological diseases like ALS and Alzheimer's. 

2. Lake Okeechobee releases have stopped, for now. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers protocols say the surface of the lake should be kept between 12.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level to protect lives and property south of the lake. The lake is currently at 14.4 feet above sea level. 

3. It's spreading. The bloom first appeared on the eastern shore of Lake Okeechobee and then spread into the St. Lucie River about six weeks ago. Algae started to show up in the Calooshatchee River in late June and has since spread to Fort Myers and Cape Coral. 

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4. The algae is not expected to dissipate anytime soon. Algae flourishes in warm, stagnant waters, and the peak bloom season is typically in the months of July and August. 

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5. This algae bloom is not related to the red tide bloom that's in the Gulf of Mexico, although both are being fed nutrients from human activities like farming and development. 

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