St. Johns algae doesn't stop swimmers

Swimmers, kayakers take part in 'Up the River Downtown' event

By Kumasi Aaron - Reporter/The Morning Show anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Reports of Algae in the St. Johns River didn't stop people from swimming and kayaking in it for a good cause.

Nearly a dozen swimmers and even more kayakers took part in Saturday's third annual "Up the River Downtown," a 10K swim to raise awareness for a healthier river.

The sun was out as people took off swimming in the St. Johns River as a part of Up the River Downtown.

Joni Roberts said reports of algae wouldn't keep her away.

"Well that's connected to the heat right now," Roberts said. "That's why the algae is in the river. 33 and 35, I am honestly not concerned about it."

Earlier in the week, researchers tested the algae in the river and found a bacteria called micro-cystis which carries toxins.

It was up to each swimmer to decide if they wanted to continue in the 10K swim and they all decided to take the plunge.

"All the swimmers want to swim," Executive Director of Jumping Fish Jim Alabis said. "Our captain Grace Sutton did some observations through Exchange Island, all the way up the river and we see some speckles in the water but we think we'll be fine."

Ten swimmers and several kayakers started at Jacksonville University.Escorted by the St. Johns Riverkeeper and Jacksonville Fire Dragons, they made their way South along the river, under the Matthews, Hart then Main Bridges.

Algae was so bad in 2005, people were urged to stay out for their own safety. Researchers say the same type of algae is here now, but levels not nearly as high.

In 2005 when the so-called Green Monster invaded the river, the toxin levels were 7.5 through 1,400 parts per billion.

Now in 2013 the toxin levels are 2.2 through 5.5 parts per billion.

The swimmers at the event said their focus was on enjoying the river and encouraging others to do the same.

"It's just real exciting," Roberts said. "It's adventurous to swim in the river."

"This hopefully will move us in the right direction and keep this thing clean and start building an economy around it," Alabiso said.

Swimmers said they are moving in the right direction, while helping others.

Proceeds will go to the Special Olympics Duval County Swim team.

'Up the River Downtown' takes place

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