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Harmful blue-green algae found in waterways along the First Coast

The St. Johns Riverkeeper says the sample taken from the St. Johns River only had trace levels of the algal toxin.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — (Editor's Note: The video above is from a previous report)

Warm water temperatures and excess nutrients is what experts say probably caused two local Health Alerts for the presence of harmful blue-green algae along the First Coast.

On Monday, the Florida Department of Health in Duval County issued a Health Alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in Christopher Creek in the San Marco vicinity in response to a water sample taken on Aug. 4.

This follows a similar Health Alert issued last week for the same harmful toxins in the St. Johns River near the Mandarin Point area. This alert was in response to a water sample taken on July 27.

But it may not be as bad as it seems.

The St. Johns Riverkeeper says the sample taken from the St. Johns only had trace levels, roughly .55 parts per billion, of the algal toxin. 

Additional samples later detected no cyanotoxins at all at Mandarin Point

“The good news is that the concentration of toxins in recent samples were well within the recommended range for safe recreational use of our river,” explains Jimmy Orth, Executive Director of St. Johns Riverkeeper. “However, these results only provide a snapshot in time. Conditions in the river constantly change...”

However, still, the Florida Department of Health in Duval County says the public should exercise caution in and around the areas mantioned above, as blue-green algae blooms can impact human health and the health of animals.

RELATED: Pet owner, riverkeeper warn about deadly algae also found in St. Johns River

Toxins produced by the blooms can cause rashes, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and respiratory irritation and high exposure to toxins can affect the liver and nervous system, according to the St. Johns Riverkeeper.

Animals such as dogs can show signs of poisoning within minutes of exposure. Those symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, difficulty breathing, seizures and possibly death.

RELATED: Georgia couple shares warning on toxic algae after dog dies less than an hour after visit to lake

Blue-green algae are a type of bacteria that is common in Florida’s freshwater environments. 

“As these microscopic organisms multiply, they can form what we call an “algal bloom.” Some species of microorganisms present in a bloom can produce toxins that are harmful to marine life, pets, and humans,” explains Laura Kostrzewski, the JU marine biology graduate student who collected the samples for St. Johns Riverkeeper “These toxins can be very dangerous depending on concentration levels and pathways of exposure.”

Environmental factors that contribute to blue-green algae blooms are sunny days, warm water temperatures, still water conditions and excess nutrients. 

For additional info on potential health effects of algal blooms, click here.