DOH-Marion issues a health alert for Lake Weir


Blue green algae bloom [Supplied]

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Posted June 16, 2022 | By Ocala Gazette Staff

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) in Marion County issued a health alert on June 13, 2022, concerning the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in Lake Weir in Ocklawaha.

The alert is in response to a water sample taken on June 7 by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that indicated toxins were present. The sample was taken near the center of the lake.

The public should exercise caution in and around Lake Weir.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski or boat in waters where there is visible algae bloom. Do not get water in your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have contact with algae or discolored or smelly water.
  • Keep pets away from the area. Waters where there are algae blooms are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should have a different source of water when algae blooms are present.
  • Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins.
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water; throw out the guts and cook fish well.
  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.

What are blue-green algae?

Blue-green algae are a type of bacteria that is common in Florida’s freshwater environments. A bloom occurs when rapid growth of algae leads to an accumulation of individual cells that discolor water and often produce floating mats that emit unpleasant odors.

Some environmental factors that contribute to blue-green algae blooms are sunny days, warm water temperatures, still water conditions and excess nutrients.

Blooms can appear year-round but are more frequent in summer and fall. Many types of blue-green algae can produce toxins.

Is it harmful?

Blue-green algae blooms can impact human health and ecosystems, including fish and other aquatic animals.

For additional information on potential health effects of algal blooms, visit www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/aquatic-toxins. Find current information about Florida’s water quality status and public health notifications for harmful algal blooms and beach conditions by visiting www.ProtectingFloridaTogether.gov.

What do I do if I see an algal bloom?

The DEP collects and analyzes algal bloom samples. To report a bloom to DEP, call the toll-free hotline at (855) 305-3903 or report online at www.surveygizmo.com/s3/3444948/Algal-Bloom-Reporting-Form.

To report fish kills, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute at 1-(800) 636-0511.

Report symptoms from exposure to a harmful algal bloom or any aquatic toxin to the Florida Poison Information Center. Call 1-(800) 222-1222 to speak to a poison specialist immediately.

Contact your veterinarian if you believe your pet has become ill after consuming or having contact with blue-green algae contaminated water.

If you have other health questions or concerns about blue-green algae blooms, contact the DOH in Marion County at (352) 629-0137 or at www.info.Marion@FLHealth.gov.

Lifting the alert

A health alert is lifted once negative toxin analyses are obtained from DEP-coordinated resampling of the bloom, or 30 days have elapsed since the last sampling date. If a health alert has been issued, it can be rescinded at this time.

For more information about the DOH, visit www.FloridaHealth.gov.