Fox Lake in Titusville tested for toxic algae


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Jan 13, 2024

Fox Lake in Titusville tested for toxic algae

Best to avoid Fox Lake's green waters this week, until samples for algae toxins

Best to avoid Fox Lake's green waters this week, until samples for algae toxins come back clean.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection sampled the lake for blue-green algae toxins Wednesday, after parts of the lake's surface turned pea-soup green over the past week.

Results are pending.

Once available, conditions at the site and the corresponding sampling results will be posted to DEP's Algal Bloom Monitoring and Response Dashboard.

"As a general reminder, people and pets are always advised to avoid coming into contact with blue green algae and to stay out of the water where a visible bloom is present," Sarah Fayed, a DEP spokeswoman said in an email.

DEP described the lake as having "algae specks visible throughout water column," on Wednesday, according to the response dashboard. "Some filamentous algae along shoreline. Small floating vegetation also abundant along shoreline (mostly Salvinia and Azolla)."

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William Klein, a Titusville environmental activist, recalls a huge Spatterdock (cow lily) and other aquatic plants that covered most of Fox Lake about two years ago. He suspects herbicides used to kill the plants set the stage for the algae overgrowth.

"I believe that these dead plants sunk to the bottom, decayed, and released the nutrients," Klein said in an email. "The warmer weather and sunny days probably caused algae bloom."

Lake Washington faced similar algae problems earlier this year. The lake is the main source of drinking water for more than 170,000 people served by the city of Melbourne's water system. But health officials have said in the past that when levels of algae toxins are at trace levels there's no risk to water customers.

In February, visitors to Lake Washington were warned they should not drink, swim, wade, boat, eat fish from the lake or let pets sip the water. That alert was in response to a lake water sample taken Feb. 20 by the St. Johns River Water Management District, which found a "trace" level (0.26 parts per billion) of a blue-green algae toxin called microcystin. On the same day, the water management district also found triple that level of the same toxin in Lake Jesup in Seminole County.

Health officials issued a similar alert for the same toxin in Lake Washington in January of last year. It typically blooms in the lake during hot summer months, but this and last year's warmer than usual temperatures may have favored the algae species that emit the toxin.

The health department did not issue any notice regarding the city's drinking water during either this year or last year's alerts.

Microcystin is a toxin produced by certain species of blue-green algae. The toxin is linked with short and long-term health risks, such as liver disease and cancer. The toxin shut down Toledo's water supply for a few days in 2014. The algae commonly blooms in Central and South Florida, and is toxic to fish, plants, invertebrates and mammals, including humans.

The toxin popped up in samples from dozens of other Florida lakes in state testing conducted between May 26 and June 1, 2023, including in Lake Okeechobee.

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Jim Waymer is an environment reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Waymer at 321-261-5903 or [email protected]. Or find him on Twitter: @JWayEnviro or on Facebook:

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