Polk County health officials issue blue-green algae alert for Lake Crago

Polk County has issued a health alert due to blue-green algae in a Lakeland waterway, prompting concerns from residents over what caused the bloom in a place and during a time of year not known for that type of algae.

The Florida Department of Health in Polk County issued the alert Monday, February 21 after blue-green algae toxins were found in Lake Crago in Lakeland. The toxins were found in a sample collected from the lake 6 days prior. 

The FL DoH-Polk County said anyone in the area should "exercise caution in and around Lake Crago" especially when it comes to pets, as well as humans with respiratory problems.

The health department said do not come in contact with the water, if possible. Activities like swimming, wading, riding personal watercraft, and boating are not recommended. Drinking the water should be avoided.

Anyone who comes in contact with the water should wash their skin and clothing with soap.

The department of health says boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins.

They also say eating healthy fish from the water is OK, but they should be properly cleaned first. Shellfish, however, should not be consumed from water where algae is found. 

From the Florida Department of Health - Polk County:

Blue-green algae are a type of bacteria that is common in Florida's freshwater environments. A bloom occurs when rapid growth of algae leads to an accumulation of individual cells that discolor water and often produce floating mats that emit unpleasant odors.

Some environmental factors that contribute to blue-green algae blooms are sunny days, warm water temperatures, still water conditions and excess nutrients. Blooms can appear year-round but are more frequent in summer and fall. Many types of blue-green algae can produce toxins.

Is it harmful? 

Blue-green algae blooms can impact human health and ecosystems, including fish and other aquatic animals.

Find current information about Florida's water quality status and public health notifications for harmful algal blooms and beach conditions by visiting https://protectingfloridatogether.gov/.

What do I do if I see an algal bloom? 

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection collects and analyzes algal bloom samples. To report a bloom to DEP, call the toll-free hotline at 855-305-3903.

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.

If you have other health questions or concerns about blue-green algae blooms, please call the Florida Department of Health in Polk County at 863-578-2146.