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Jacksonville algae samples find toxin levels up to 300x the safe limit

These toxins can be very dangerous depending on concentration levels and pathways of exposure, according to The St. Johns Riverkeeper.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Test results from algae samples recently collected by St. Johns Riverkeeper found toxin levels up to 300 times the recreational safe limit for microcystins in Jacksonville waterways.

Microcystins are part of a class of toxins produced by freshwater cyanobacteria, commonly known as blue-green algae, reports the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA says microcystis is the most common bloom-forming genus and is almost always toxic.

The current recommended Human Health Recreational Ambient Water Quality Criteria or Swimming Advisories limit is currently 8 micrograms per liter (ug/L) total microcystins.

The St. Johns Riverkeeper reports that in Jacksonville, all five samples tested by Greenwater Labs contained toxins far in excess of what is considered safe for swimming and recreation.  

Samples collected at the following locations on Sept. 27 and 28:

  • St. Johns River at St. Vincent's Hospital - 1,060 ug/L
  • St. Johns at the end of Seminole Road in Avondale - 2,415 ug/L
  • Trout River near Highway 17/Main Street Bridge - 54.8 ug/L
  • St. Johns River at River Road in San Marco - 615 ug/L
  • Mouth of Craig Creek in San Marco - 491 ug/L

(*UPDATE: As of Oct. 7, The Florida Department of Health in Duval County says the public should also exercise caution in and around the waterway located near the Dames Point Bridge)

The St. Johns Riverkeeper says that the test results differ dramatically from samples recently taken by Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) at similar locations. 

These toxins can be very dangerous depending on concentration levels and pathways of exposure, according to The St. Johns Riverkeeper.

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

How to protect yourself:

  • If skin contact occurs, wash off immediately and thoroughly with clean water and soap
  • Pet owners should prevent their pets from drinking or swimming in bodies of water where algal blooms are present
  • Citizens can help prevent algae blooms and nutrient pollution by limiting the use of fertilizers, picking up dog waste, maintaining septic tanks, and reaching out to their elected officials to demand protective policies to reduce nutrient loading in waterways

If citizens spot what looks like bright green, paint-like scum on the surface of the water, they should steer clear. 

The Riverkeeper says you should not recreate, boat, swim, or fish near an algae bloom.

If you encounter an algae bloom, you can report it to the FDEP by calling 855-305-3903 or completing an online form.  You can also report to St. Johns RIverkeeper at report@sjrk.org.

Visit www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org for more information.