Type of blue-green algae confirmed in waters off Safety Harbor

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A type of blue-green algae has popped up in Old Tampa Bay, bringing with it unsightly water and a foul smell. 

“I can’t breathe. It’s bad if you have asthma or any kind of breathing or respiratory problems,” said Cassandra Nash, who likes to walk around the Safety Harbor pier.

A neighbor captured photos of the dark-looking algae on the shoreline Memorial Day in Safety Harbor. 

Pinellas County government confirmed it’s actually a type of blue-green algae known as oscillatoria.

It’s not the same form of blue-green algae that has caused problems in water on both sides of Lake Okeechobee in South Florida, but it contains the same toxic bacteria, cyanobacteria.

“We won’t be coming around,” said concerned neighbor Sunny Meehan.

Pinellas County environmental workers first got a report of a foul smell May 17, so they collected a sample that ended up testing positive for the algae.

Then, there was another report on Monday, and it was confirmed again.

“You shouldn’t be breathing this stuff in. You don’t know if it’s going to hurt you or not,” said Nash.

People who live nearby and fish in the water are concerned.

“It can affect [the fish]. They will eat the algae, certain fish like snooks. Snooks eat algae and it can affect the meat of the fish. People will eat it, and they will get sick out of nowhere,” said fisherman Felix Chhoeun.

Health officials said people should not eat anything from or touch the water. Pinellas County government said environmental scientists will keep monitoring the levels for now and don’t expect it to spread.