Blue-green algae is back in our local waterways. We took a sample of it to FGCU, and it tested positive. However, experts say it’s not time to panic.
The sample was taken from a canal in Cape Coral Monday. While it looks similar to the algae we saw last year, an expert at FGCU tested it and said it is not cause for immediate concern. But for neighbors who said they were unable to walk out of their homes for months, not worrying is easier said than done.
“Well the smell last year was like a dumpster,” Kimberley Artesa said. “It was a sewer, human waste.”
Artesa is disgusted thinking about the blue-green algae that filled the canal behind her house in 2018.
“It was horrible, and it was pungent,” Artesa said. “And it just lasted for so long.”
So when Artesa’s husband noticed green gunk floating in their canal over the weekend, they immediately panicked and sent us a picture.
“I’m not very confident that it’s not algae because everything looks the same as last year,” Artesa said. “The smell is coming back.”
We took the sample from the canal behind their home to Professor Serge Thomas at the water school of Florida Gulf Coast University.
“So you do have some cyanobacteria filamentous,” Thomas said. “Some of them looks like oscillatoria, so the same as last year.”
While we are seeing some of the same cyanobacteria as last year, Thomas said it’s not an issue unless it blooms.
“I mean do we have a bloom?” Thomas said. “I don’t think we have a bloom yet, but it could turn into a bloom if the conditions remain favorable.”
If temperatures continue to rise and nutrients flood the waterways, the chances of a bloom increase. The reason the blue-green algae could be appearing earlier this year is due to one of the cleaning tactics used in 2018 — hydrogen peroxide. This kills the algae instead of removing it.
“I mean the treatment can be a little Band-Aid,” Thomas said.
One warning: While cyanobacteria that we found is not toxic, it does have low levels of a kind that can cause a rash.
Thomas also said we should watch the water closely. And as soon as we see a bloom, someone should preemptively start removing it.
People like Artesa are going to help keep an eye on it.
“We are just praying that it doesn’t come back like it did last year,” Artesa said.