Bonita Lake

A blue-green algae bloom was found on Bonita Lake in DeBary on April 5, and shows how close to the shoreline the toxic algae is located.

Several West Volusia lakes recently tested positive for low levels of blue-green algae toxins, according to The Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Residents need to use caution if living near Lake Louise or Pioneer Lake in Deltona or Bonita Lake in DeBary. Lake Monroe also has an algae bloom in the center of the lake, however officials have not issued an alert near the shoreline, according to Wendi Jackson, public information specialist with Florida Department of Health in Volusia County.

Blue-green algae is a natural part of Florida’s fresh water system, and algae blooms that get out of hand due to environmental reasons like heat or high nitrogen are not uncommon in Volusia. Though they most often occur in late summer, these blooms can happen at any time.

For the scientifically curious, Lake Louise was tested March 16 and the test was updated April 27. Microcystis aeruginosa was the toxin found there and in Pioneer Lake. Pioneer Lake was tested April 25. Bonita Lake was tested April 5 and updated April 27. Oedogonium sp. was found in that lake. Test results expire 30 days after taken.

When a toxic bloom happens, it can create an unpleasant odor and there may also be unpleasant symptoms for people who breathe it in or make physical contact with the water. The health department says possible physical effects are rashes, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and respiratory irritation. Residents are cautioned not to wade, swim or boat in these lakes while a bloom is present.

Ms. Jackson said pets are most at risk. “If they’re out, their immediate first response when they get to water is to drink it and if there are blooms on the edge then they can get really sick,” she said.

Can you fish in a lake when a bloom is present? Ms. Jackson says you can. “The toxins from algae don’t accumulate in flesh. So, if you caught a fish, clean it and properly prepare it, you’re safe. Our current alerts are very low, ppm (parts per million) speaking. If they had been high alerts then we would be telling you not to even go close to these blooms, but because they’re so low you should be safe. It’s all about washing. You don’t want to be in the water where the blooms are,” she explained.

If you do come in contact with water from these lakes, the DEP recommends thoroughly washing both your skin and clothing with soap and water.

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