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Alert! Toxic Algae Crisis Takes Over Florida, State of Emergency Declared

Jul 06, 2016 06:39 AM EDT

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency at the local states in St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach and Lee counties in Florida after thick, blue-green algae invaded the waterways, alarming citizens and marine life.

What once was blue turned into pea green.

According to reports, Lake Okeechobee's polluted water, which was found out to have levels of toxins 20 times higher than a safety threshold set by the World Health Organization, was to be blamed for the outbreak that exploded on a full scale.

(Photo : Flickr/Creative Commons/NOAA)
Jar of Toxic Algae

Because of the heavy rainfall for the past months, Lake Okeechobee's water level reached a foot above normal. Public officials decided to drain the lake out toward Florida's coast. And while it might have saved the dike, the nearby bodies of water suffered the consequences.

According to The Guardian, the water has caused skin rashes among Florida residents.

"The smell is so bad it will make you gag," said Martin county resident Mary Radabaugh at an emergency meeting. "We have red eyes and scratchy throats. We can smell it in our office. It's terrible."

Quality decline

The polluted water is now in Florida's coastal communities. The water, flowing out of the lake at 70,000 gallons per second, will soon reach the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, Climate Progress reports.

The quality of water in Florida has been declining for years. According to Florida Water Coalition, the Florida waters are often met with pollution caused by inadequately treated sewage, manure and fertilizer.

Environmental Protection Agency explains that blue-green algae or cyanobacteria/harmful algal blooms are overgrowth of algae in water. They are usually caused by nutrient pollution from human activities, leading to more severe blooms that occur more often.

The Department of Primary Industries Water of New South Wales said water with algae toxicity should not be used for potable water supply (without prior treatment), stock watering, or for recreation.

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