'Guacamole-Thick' Algae Causes Florida Emergency

'The smell is so bad it will make you gag,' one local resident says
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 1, 2016 9:15 AM CDT
'Guacamole-Thick' Algae Causes Florida Emergency
An aerial photo shows blue-green algae enveloping an area along the St. Lucie River in Stuart, Fla., on Wednesday.   (Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post via AP)

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. (More Florida stories.)

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