Multiple blooms, multiple toxins, multiple worries: New study sheds light on 2018’s disastrous algae crisis in Florida

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Merrillee algae4 In: Multiple blooms, multiple toxins, multiple worries: New study sheds light on 2018's disastrous algae crisis in Florida | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River
High Springs, FL. May 22, 2012. Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, then-president of Our Santa Fe River, displays algae taken from the Santa Fe River at the U.S. 27 boat ramp. photo by John Moran/

Not just in South Florida, toxic algae can be found in the northern part of the state, including in the Santa Fe River.  Toxic Cyanobacteria  was  first identified in the Santa Fe by OSFR board member Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson during the  low water levels in 2012.  Several springs, among them Poe, stopped flowing and north of High Springs one could walk across the river on stones without getting one’s feet wet.

As time goes on scientists are finding more and more bad things about the algae.  Learn more in the following article, which can be read in its entirety at this link to News-Press.


Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum


Multiple blooms, multiple toxins, multiple worries: New study sheds light on 2018’s disastrous algae crisis in Florida

Amy Bennett Williams

Fort Myers News-Pres

Those who lived through 2018’s summer knew Southwest Florida’s water was bad, but a new peer-reviewed scientific study helps clarify how bad.

Just published in the journal Neurotoxicity Research, “Toxin Analysis of Freshwater Cyanobacterial and Marine Harmful Algal Blooms on the West Coast of Florida and Implications for Estuarine Environments,” shows residents were exposed to a mix of potentially dangerous toxins at the same time, as a one-two punch of algae blooms left the economy reeling and residents sickened.

In coastal saltwater, red tide killed countless sea creatures, while making beachgoing miserable for many. Throughout freshwater inland reaches, cyanobacteria glazed the Caloosahatchee, its tributaries and connected canals. The result was an ugly, stinking mess that may have lasting health consequences for the people who experienced it.

More like this:Florida toxic algae a long-term health concern, according to scientists, researchers

The paper’s lead author is James Metcalf, senior research scientist at Brain Chemistry Labs in Wyoming.

With the help of volunteers and staff from the nonprofits Calusa Waterkeeper and Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Metcalf collected samples with a pennon-shaped white mesh net device that snags and concentrates algae. He crisscrossed the region’s waterways by boat, ranging from Fort Myers to Pine Island Sound to Gasparilla Island, dipping up specimens from open water, marinas and matted scum along seawalls.

“Although aesthetically unpleasant,” Metcalf writes in the study, “of bigger concern is their potential to produce highly potent, low molecular weight toxins with acute and chronic human health impacts.” Beyond skin irritation and gastrointestinal distress, the toxins have been implicated in liver disease and several grave neurodegenerative illnesses.

According to the report, water samples showed high concentrations of microcystin-LR, produced by cyanobacteria, often called blue-green algae, “sufficient to result in adverse human and animal health effects if ingested.”

At the same time the microorganism that produced red tide were releasing a potent neurotoxin called brevetoxin in the Gulf of Mexico.

What’s more, another neurotoxin called BMAA linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS and Alzheimer’s disease, was detected in samples from the Caloosahatchee and west coast. (Sampling the following year showed high concentrations of BMAA to be present then as well.)

Together, they created what Cassani calls a  ‘nightmare of co-occurring toxins.’

Several locally familiar environmental advocates share authorship credits with Metcalf’s peer-reviewed paper, published in the scientific journal Neurotoxicity Research: Sanibel-Captiva Conservation’s recently retired natural resource policy director Rae Ann Wessel and Calusa Waterkeeper’s Cassani and Jason Pim….

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