Riverkeeper finds toxins under safe threshold in St. Johns

Algae stretches from Doctors Lake to Shands Bridge

By Nick Jones - Digital producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Toxins were detected by the Environment Protection Agency in samples of algae along the St. Johns River, but their levels were slightly lower than safe recreation standards, The Riverkeeper revealed Thursday.

According to lab results from the sample taken on July 11 in Doctors Lake, the test showed it contained microcystins at a level of 3.34 nanograms per milliliter. The EPA's safe threshold is 4.0 nanograms per milliliter.

The St. Johns Riverkeeper said microcystins are liver toxins produced by a bacteria, which is found in the blue-green algae at Doctors Lake and other locations along the river. The Toxins may persist for weeks to months.

While the liver is the target of microcystins, skin, eyes and throats can suffer as well, the Riverkeeper said.

The algae is not just a problem in Northeast Florida. Gov. Rick Scott on Monday issued an emergency order over the reemergence of toxic algae outbreaks on both coasts, as the regions’ water quality blossoms into a political issue.

According to the Riverkeeper, as temperatures stay hot, more blue-green algae outbreaks are likely. Take care to avoid areas where blue-green algae is present and report outbreaks to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Hotline either online or by calling 855-305-3903.

Tests along Florida coast continue Friday

Water releases from Lake Okeechobee toward both Florida coasts will resume Friday amid political backlash and a toxic algae bloom.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flushes water from the lake to reduce pressure on its aging dike. In a statement Thursday, Col. Jason Kirk said Okeechobee's rising water levels pose a major flood risk to nearby communities.

Coastal communities say the discharges spread toxic algae, threatening tourism and health.

Senate and gubernatorial candidates in both parties have made the discharges a campaign issue in a crucial election year.

The Trump administration has approved a new Everglades reservoir to store more water south from the lake, but Congress must approve those plans.

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