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Algae blooms seen in St. Johns River can kill pets in hours, expert says

It’s not lime green paint or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toxic waste. It’s toxic algae blooms and it’s popping up all over the St. Johns River. Biologists and marine scientists say it’s harmful to you and your pets.
It’s not lime green paint or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toxic waste. It’s toxic algae blooms and it’s popping up all over the St. Johns River. Biologists and marine scientists say it’s harmful to you and your pets.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s not lime green paint or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toxic waste. It’s toxic algae blooms and it’s popping up all over the St. Johns River.

Biologists and marine scientists say it’s harmful to you and your pets.

“This particular type of cyanobacteria, known as microcystis. It can adjust its buoyancy and rise to the surface. Your animals can come out of the water with this on their fur, they lick it off and can be dead in a matter of hours,” said Biology and Marine Science Professor Dr. Melinda Simmons with Jacksonville University.

MORE | Algae bloom toxins in St. Johns River raise concerns of Riverkeeper

The algae are also indirectly harming marine life in the river.

“You get a proliferation of algae what does it do? It shades all the grasses that the manatees like to eat. If that gets shaded, it dies and then the manatees have no food,” said Gerry Pinto with the Marine Science Institute at JU. “It’s been a while that we’ve seen it (algae) so bad.”

He uses a device to measure the quality, temperature and salt in the water to see how it affects the blooms.

They say too many nutrients in the water, warm weather and rain helps these toxins thrive.

“Like most urban environments, we have too many nutrients. And so we’re trying to work with JEA and various other stakeholders to bring it down,” said Pinto.

The Department of Health Thursday said a new algae bloom was spotted near the Dames Point Bridge. There are also reports of blooms at the jetties and Hanna Park.

“We are a tidally influenced estuary in the river. So when the river is outgoing everything in the river is going to go with it. So if we have nutrients or trash farther south, that’s going to be carried up through Jacksonville as well,” said Dr. Simmons.

Once the water cools, Simmons said the blooms will die off.

Scientists said one way you can help is not putting too much fertilizer in your yard that will eventually end up in the water.

The Department of Environmental Protection has a dashboard to record algae bloom sightings.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

• Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom.

• Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have contact with algae or discolored or smelly water.

• Keep pets away from the area. Waters where there are algae blooms are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should have a different source of water when algae blooms are present.

• Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins.

• Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts and cook fish well.

• Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.


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A Florida girl and North Carolina A&T SU grad who thrives in breaking news.