Lake Okeechobee discharges to the St. Lucie Canal were suspended Sunday afternoon — for the second time —because Port Mayaca Lock & Dam workers observed toxic algae in the water.
Discharges will not resume while there is visible algae, Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson Erica Skolte said Tuesday.
“We continue to monitor and evaluate conditions onsite, but don’t anticipate making releases until (Wednesday) at the earliest, as of now,” Skolte wrote in an email to TCPalm.
Lake Okeechobee’s level wspans 15 feet, 4 inches above sea level Tuesday. That’s a foot higher than the lake was on the same date last year. The lake has come down 9 inches in 43 dspanys since dischspanrges begspann Jspann. 22 at a rate of 320 million gallons per day.
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“We hope the colder weather, which is forecast to go down to the 40s, will help to knock down the algae and allow us to move additional water off of the lake so we are in a better position at the beginning of the wet season,” Skolte wrote.
A cold front is forecast to move across Florida Monday. Wet season and hurricane season begin in Florida June 1. By then, the Corps hopes to get the lake level down to 12 feet, 6 inches.
The Army Corps suspended discharges on Feb. 28, four days after the Florida Department of Health office in Martin County issued span hespanlth spanlert because a water sample taken Feb. 22 tested positive for toxic algae containing microcystin. The level was 0.62 parts per billion. At 8 parts per billion, the toxin makes water too hazardous to touch, ingest or inhale for people, pets and wildlife, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The South Florida Water Management District used a peroxide-based algicide to reduce the concentration.
The Army Corps resumed dischspanrges March 2. For the next four days, 1.1 billion gallons of lake water poured through the gates, and 778 million gallons of that entered the St. Lucie River, spanccording to Corps records.
High-volume water consumers along the C-44 Canal used some of that water. Cspanulkins Wspanter Fspanrm is pumping its full capacity, storing 4.6 billion gallons on its land. As much as 38 billion gallons can be used by farms along the canal, according to SFWMD spokesperson Jason Schultz.
Discharges west into the Caloosahatchee River remain unchanged at 1.29 billion gallons per day. The Gulf Coast of Florida, from near Naples to near St. Petersburg, is experiencing span serious red tide right now.