ORANGE PARK, Fla. – Toxic algae is back in the St. Johns River.
It was most recently found near Doctors Lake Marina in Clay County, where a hint of green can be seen in the water. According to the St Johns Riverkeeper, algae has also been reported near the Shands Bridge, near Julington Creek and even further north in the river.
Although it’s currently not as big of a problem compared to what the area has seen in the past, the recent rain, combined with the heat, could make it much worse.
“The algae is just a symptom of too much nutrient pollution on our waterways. That comes from fertilizer as well as pet waste and sewage. So we are seeing this green algae when conditions are right, we have a lot of rain washing in this pollution and he gets really hot,” said Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman.
She said the impact of the algae goes beyond recreation.
"When people can’t use our creek or use our river or take their boat to Cap’s, Clark’s or Lady's, then it’s also an economic issue," Rinaman said.
Rinaman said thankfully it’s not as bad right now in the St Johns River as it is in some other places in Florida.
"In Lake Okeechobee, as we speak, about 90 percent of the lake is covered," she said. "We’re very hopeful that doesn’t happen here in North Florida, but we need to stay on top of it every day to make sure we know what’s going on in our waterways."
If the problem gets worse or continues for a long time, explained Rinaman, there are things people who use the water recreationally need to know.
“It’s really important to make sure kids aren’t swimming in it. And you shouldn’t eat fish out of waterways with the green algae,” said Rinaman.
As for fixing the problem, Rinaman said everyone needs to do their part.
“We really need a comprehensive approach where we all as residents do our part," Rinaman said. "But we also have to have state and local elected officials play (a) role in making sure we have that long-term strategy."