Water-Related News

Health department issues warning about algae blooms in Lakeland’s Scott Lake

Blue-green algae has been detected in Scott Lake, prompting a warning from health officials to avoid contact with the lake’s water in areas where a bloom is visible.

The Florida Department of Health in Polk County issued a health alert late Friday afternoon, based on a sample taken in the lake on Feb. 7. The warning said the public should be cautious about exposure to the water near the Fitzgerald Road boat ramp on the west end of the lake.

Blue-green algae are bacteria common in Florida's freshwater environments, the release said. Blooms occur when a rapid growth of algae causes an accumulation of individual cells, which turn the water green and often produce floating mats that emit unpleasant odors. Many types of the algae produce toxins, the Health Department said in the news release.

The Health Department warned residents not to drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski or boat in waters with visible blooms. Pets should be kept away from the areas, the release said.

If you have contact with algae or with discolored or foul-smelling water, you should wash your skin and clothing with soap and water, the release said.

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

The dominant toxin in the sample taken from Scott Lake on Feb. 7 was Microcystis aeruginosa, the most common toxic bloom in fresh water, according to information posted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The agency obtained samples from Scott Lake after satellite imagery indicated a possible algal bloom, DEP spokesperson Brian Humphreys said in an email. The sample detected a trace level of 0.56 parts per billion of microcystins.

DEP will monitor Scott Lake and retest water samples in the coming weeks, Humphreys said. The results will be posted on the agency's dashboard (http://floridadep.gov/AlgalBloom).