Saturday, June 22

Martin County boaters staying ‘as far away from the water as possible’ following blue-green algae advisory

The Palm City Bridge is one of three locations along the St. Lucie River that the Florida Health Department in Martin County has flagged for having toxic blue-green algae.

Martin County boaters said the days of enjoying these waters are over.

“We do not touch the water. We don’t even put our feet in when we’re putting the boat in or out,” Palm City boater Erika Maglione said.

“We stay as far away from the water as possible,” Stuart boater Howard Mason said.

“I actually do less boating in here because of it,” Stuart boater Glen Taylor said.

Boaters are heeding the warning from the Florida Health Department on Friday regarding a toxic blue-green algae bloom found in parts of the St. Lucie River.

The Florida Department of Health in Martin County said blue-green algal toxins were found in the St. Lucie Canal at the 96th Street Bridge, the St. Lucie River at Four Rivers and the St. Lucie River at the Palm City Bridge.

“It can cause neurodegenerative diseases,” Eve Samples, executive director of Friends of the Everglades, said. “It can lead to liver damage. It also can cause respiratory distress.”

She said it’s a serious public health concern, adding that you don’t have to come in direct contact with the water to be at risk.

Jackie Mason fears the health issues associated with toxic algae.

“Years ago my husband and I both got sick from the water,” Jackie Mason said. “I don’t want to do that again.”

The Army Corps of Engineers has announced that water releases will pause for two weeks beginning this weekend. However, Samples hopes they will stop discharges for longer than that, given Friday’s health alert.

“Do you think this two-week break in water discharges is enough?” WPTV reporter Cassandra Garcia asked Samples.

“Absolutely not, the two-week break is just a start,” Samples responded. “To protect the public, to protect our environment, we need to extend the relief period and keep the gates closed for much longer than two weeks, hopefully, until June 1 and beyond that.

The Masons said these discharges have destroyed the clean estuary they once knew.

“The first year we came here, people used to swim in this river,” Howard Mason said. “Now you wouldn’t touch this river.”

For now, they’re holding on to hope that the Army Corps of Engineers will stop sending water east once and for all.

The Florida Health Department in Martin County urges people not to drink, swim, wade or use a water vessel in waters where a visible algae bloom is present. They also advise washing your skin and clothes if you come in contact with algae.

For the full list of recommendations see the health alert below:

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