Beaches are closed in South Florida, where a massive algae bloom has caused water to turn bright green and Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency in four counties—Martin, St. Lucie, Lee, and Palm Beach—over Wednesday and Thursday, reports Weather.com. Health officials are telling people to stay out of the water if they notice discoloration and not to use tainted water to water their lawns. And tainted it is, according to one resident who tells CBS Miami, "The only way to describe how it smells is like a hundred dead animals that have been sitting in the street for weeks." What some blame for the toxic turmoil: a water release from Lake Okeechobee, found last month to have more than 20 times the level of toxins deemed safe by the WHO, per TCPalm.com.
Exposure to these toxins can cause skin rashes, vomiting, and respiratory issues, and aquatic life could be sickened and killed. One video posted to Facebook by a Martin County resident shows a manatee struggling to work its way through what a county rep calls "guacamole-thick" algae, Fox News reports. The US Army Corps of Engineers is planning on decreasing the flow Friday from the lake, opened for release because water levels were straining the lake's levee and posing a flooding risk. Gov. Scott, who blames the feds for not repairing that dike, has instructed the state DEP and fish and wildlife commission to address issues caused by the hazardous situation. But some are blaming Scott himself, saying he hasn't done enough to curtail pollution happening on farms near the lake. (Read more Florida stories.)