Hurricanes may be to blame for huge algae blooms in Central Florida, experts say

Winter Park issued warnings for lakes impacted by algae blooms

WINTER PARK, Fla. – Blue Green Algae blooms have been popping up in lakes across Central Florida and experts believe recent back-to-back hurricanes could be to blame.

Algae bloom expert Dr. Don Anderson with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute said there are several things that could trigger a Blue Green Algae bloom.

“Certainly, fertilizers and nutrients that are in the water, the fertilizers that might come from people’s lawns or from farmland, and so forth,” Anderson said. “Temperature is also a very important part of the story because this group of organisms really thrives with warm temperatures better than many, many other types of algae and organisms that occur in these waters.”

The City of Winter Park posted an advisory to warn the public of hazardous Algae Bloom events happening in the city’s lakes. Among those impacted are Lakes Maitland, Baldwin, Sue, Osceola and Virginia.

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City officials said both Hurricanes Ian and Nicole played a part in the toxic algae by flooding the area’s waterways with more nutrient-dense waters.

Officials said they were expecting the events to be more intense this year. They’re seeing it week after week not only in Winter Park, but in other parts of the state, too.

“Certainly, the lakes and the rivers are going to get a surge in nutrients,” Anderson said. “And that could well explain the surge that you’re getting now in these blooms.”

While public access to the impacted lakes in Winter Park have been limited, those who live on the lakes still have access. However, officials want people to consider the potential health risks to themselves and their pets before making that decision.

“People have to be aware of doing things like swimming or jet skiing or even power boating, things like that where they might inhale spray or get exposed to those cells and the algae,” Anderson said. “You have to be very careful with pets. Pets that go jumping in the water and then go lick their fur can get sick and die. It happens quite often.”

City officials are encouraging the public to reduce what they call “Personal Pointless Pollution.” They suggest choosing a fertilizer with slow releasing nitrogen or phosphorus free. In addition, they suggest not disposing of grass clippings into the lake.

To stay updated on Blue Green Algae blooms, click here.

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Emily joined WKMG-TV in November 2022.