The blue-green algae in and around Cape Coral is being sucked up by giant vacuums. Lee County received a grant to help clear it out.
Even if the crews get rid of the algae — the toxins might not be gone.
“Once the algae is removed, the source of new toxins is supposedly gone, there are still toxins in the water,” Rick Bartleson, a research scientist at Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation said. said.
He said the toxins will decrease over time with additional fresh water but if the algae comes back before that happens, the toxins stay put.
“The toxin levels should decrease over time as long as their no inputs of new algae,” he said.
The toxins get into the air because of algae bubbles popping from strong winds or waves.
“The aerosolization is from bubbles breaking and when bubbles break, little droplets of water get into the air,” Bartleson said. “The toxins, as long as they’re in the water, that process can still happen.”
So even if the algae is not there, the toxins can still get out of the water and into the air.
So we talked to people in the Cape Coral area, near the yacht club. “Just the smell of it — walking down the dock you pretty much have to wear a mask in order to not get it into your lungs,” they said.
They left their boat because they can’t handle the smell — but chose not to give their name.
After crews cleaned the blue-green algae earlier this month, they came back only to find another bloom growing.
“It was good for a little while, but now it’s starting to come back again. You’ll see in certain spots where the bloom is starting. So if that happens, we’ll have to leave again,” they said.
Bartleson said a better solution is decreasing the fertilizer, waste, and minerals going into the water.
“The way to be efficient is to not put nutrients into the estuary or into the lake — and then you won’t cause the algae bloom,” he said.
Reporting by Anna Kohls