POLK COUNTY, Fla. — Although you may not be able to see it, three Polk County lakes, Lake Crago and Lake Hancock in Lakeland and the Lake Mattie Canal in Auburndale, have harmful levels of blue-green algal toxins.
The Florida Department of Health in Polk County issued a health alert based on water samples taken on May 24.
“So if there’s toxins in the water at a certain level, it can be harmful to humans and pets,” said Pamela Acosta-Torres, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health in Polk County.
Blue-green algae are a type of bacteria that is common in Florida's freshwater environments. When conditions are right —warm water and increased nutrients— it can quickly grow and overpopulate into masses called blooms.
“Blooms are more common in the summer and fall just because it’s warmer. Also, a supply of nutrients in the water can also encourage the blue-green algae to grow,” said Acosta-Torres.
Harmful algae blooms can cause breathing problems, along with eye, nose, and skin irritations. Health officials said your best plan of action is to stay away from the water.
“People and pets stay out of the water. That includes boating, swimming, any contact with the water,” Acosta-Torres said.
People should not drink the water. Also, individuals fishing on the lakes are encouraged to adequately rinse and clean the fish and appropriately dispose of unused materials.
“If you do have symptoms after being exposed to this area contact the Florida Poison control and for your pets, your veterinarian should be able to help,” said Acosta-Torres.
If you need to 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.