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Health warning issued over blue-green algae at Doctors Lake

Blue-green algae in Doctors Lake in 2017.
St. Johns Riverkeeper
Blue-green algae in Doctors Lake in 2017.

A toxic blue-green algae bloom in Doctor's Lake and Mill Cove poses a risk for swimmers and boaters, health officials say.

Toxins were discovered in a water sample taken May 17. The Florida Department of Health in Clay County advised people on Tuesday to take 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.
  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.

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

Blue-green algae are a type of bacteria that are common in Florida’s freshwater environments. Sunny days, warm water, still water and pollution runoff from land contribute to the blooms.

Blue-green algae blooms can be toxic to wildlife, people drinking the water or breathing the air nearby. Exposure can lead to allergic reactions such as skin rashes, eye irritations and respiratory symptoms.

The Florida Department of Health offers this advice if you see an algae bloom:

  • To report a bloom to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, call the toll-free hotline at (855) 305-3903 or report online.
  • To report fish kills, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute at 1-800-636-0511.
  • Report symptoms from exposure to a harmful algal bloom or any aquatic toxin to the Florida Poison Information Center. Call 1-800-222-1222 to speak to a poison specialist immediately.
  • Contact your veterinarian if you believe your pet has become ill after consuming or having contact with blue-green algae contaminated water.