'Alarming' levels of algal toxins found in Clay Co.

FLEMING ISLAND, Fla. - Algae samples recently taken from the St. Johns River at Doctors Lake Marina in Clay County show the highest levels of toxic algae ever recorded.

The tests results by GreenWater Laboratories released by the St. Johns River Water Management District on Friday show total microcystin toxin levels at 1120 and 4350 micrograms per liter, or more than 50 and 200 times higher than the recommended recreational exposure threshold of 20 micrograms per liter from the World Health Organization.

That's double the levels taken from the river by Jacksonville University taken last week by St. Johns Riverkeeper, a nonprofit advocacy group and thriple the levels in 2005, the summer the algae bloom was dubbed "The Green Monster."

Last week's results prompted the St. Johns River Water Management District to do more sampling.

"We were alarmed when our sample results came back with such high levels of algal toxins," said Lisa Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper. "We are even more concerned now after seeing the recent results from the St. Johns River Water Management District's sampling. It is clearly time to put an end to the nutrient pollution problem that is fueling these toxic algal blooms, putting the health of our river and our citizens at risk."

"It is important that the public understand the risks from exposure and avoid contact with any algal blooms they may encounter."

Algal blooms often occur as a result of excessive concentration of nutrients in our river and waterways. Too much nitrogen and phosphorous can feed uncontrolled algal blooms that deplete oxygen in the water needed by fish, reduce light that is essential to submerged vegetation, and threaten the health of both humans and aquatic life. Excess nutrients result from failing septic tanks, manure, wastewater discharges, stormwater runoff, and fertilizers that regularly wash into the river.

The Florida Department of Health in Duval County recently released a statement with these safety tips: "Blue-green algae toxins can affect the liver, nervous system and skin. Most problems happen when water containing high toxin amounts is ingested. Abdominal cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting may occur if any untreated surface water is swallowed. Direct contact or breathing airborne droplets containing high levels of algal toxins during swimming or showering can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and throat. Rashes can develop when skin is exposed to the algae. Individuals should avoid coming in to contact with a blue-green algae bloom, especially children and pets. Boiling water does not remove or destroy these toxins.

"DOH-Duval recommends people refrain from recreational water uses that could result in ingestion of and/or skin exposure to algal blooms in the river. Children should also not be allowed to play along the shoreline where they might be exposed to clumps of algae or drink water from the river. FDOH also recommends that fish caught in or near the bloom not be consumed."

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