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State of Emergency Declared in Florida Due to Algae in Waterways

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Algal blooms in St. Lucie and Martin Counties spur declaration

Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in both St. Lucie County and Martin County due to the presence of algal blooms in local waterways.

Scott issued an executive order on June 29, 2016 that will serve to allow both state and local governmental agencies to act quickly and mitigate the spread of algal blooms in waterways that deal directly with the flow of water in and out of Lake Okeechobee.

Additionally, the governor is calling on both the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to take immediate and direct actions to deal with the blooms, and issues that can result from the blooms.

"Today, I am declaring a state of emergency in Martin and St. Lucie Counties to expedite water storage projects to alleviate the proliferation of algal blooms. The order also allows the South Florida Water Management District to reduce the flow of water into Lake Okeechobee through additional water storage projects. -- Governor Rick Scott

In the declaration process, Scott also called on the federal government to "speedily approve permits for our dispersed water management programs," and requested the development of a hotline for residents to report blooms.

Health hazards of algal blooms

According to the Florida Department of Health, blue-green algae -- also known as Cyanobacteria -- can occurs naturally on both land and seas. Rapid cyanobacteria growth can then result in an algal bloom; blooms can occur on the surface of water and/or under the surface.

Humans or animals near cyanobacteria can become exposed to toxins produced by this type of algae. High exposure to the toxins -- swallowing affected water, breathing in water spray, or directly touching blooms -- can cause various health issues associated with the gastrointestinal tract, liver, nervous system, and skin. Due to the threat of direct contact, children and pets can be the most vulnerable.

Matt Mills Matt Mills has been involved in various aspects of online media, both on the editorial side and on the technology side, for more than 16 years. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, and is currently involved in multiple projects focused on innovation journalism.