Harmful algae bloom in North Fort Myers canal concerns scientists

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NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. — Thick, noxious-smelling mats of blue-green algae are popping up in a dead-end canal in North Fort Myers.

Since the 2018 algae crisis, communities along the Caloosahatchee haven’t seen blooms nearly as bad as the one on Tuesday.

Residents say a bloom along their canal is growing, and drawing concern from scientists. 

“I would say we noticed it Sunday morning, it wasn’t as green, just little pinpoints of it,” said Kristi Walkowski, who lives along a canal near West Bluewater Terrance in North Fort Myers. 

On Tuesday, she checked her backyard canal to find it dyed bright green. 

“I actually told my husband, we were born and raised in Chicago, I said who turned our river green? We do that in downtown Chicago, and all of a sudden it’s in my backyard,” she said. 

With it, came the smell of rotten eggs. It’s a telltale sign of a perennial hazard in the brackish canals along the Caloosahatchee River in Lee County, one that experts identified as cyanobacteria. 

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“It is definitely an overgrowth of cyanobacteria, you would call this a harmful algal bloom,” said Dr. Barry Rosen, from FGCU. 

It’s harmful because of the multiple kinds of deadly toxins that this bloom can produce.

Now researchers from FGCU plan on using this bloom in North Fort Myers to better understand how easily those toxins can disperse into the air, and if they are a hazard to humans living nearby. 

“That smell isn’t harmful but if you can smell those compounds, what else is in the air? That’s what I would say, and if it were me, I would not be going out, breathing this air in,” Dr. Rosen said. 

Tags: algae bloomcyanobacteriaFGCUFort Myers

 

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