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Florida declares state of emergency over algae blooms

By Amy R. Connolly
Florida declares state of emergency over algae blooms
Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency over algae blooms in parts of South Florida. Screenshot from WFTV

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., June 30 (UPI) -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency over widespread algae blooms that have forced the closure of beaches in parts of South Florida.

The emergency order for Martin and St. Lucie counties, north of Palm Beach on the Atlantic coast, direct local environmental agencies, including the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, to take actions to address the blooms. That includes reducing the flow of water into Lake Okeechobee and creating a hotline for residents to report algae blooms. Scott also called on the federal government to quickly approve permits for water management programs. The blooms are suspected to have originated in Lake Okeechobee, officials said.

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Scott blamed the bloom, and resulting economic impact, on the Obama administration's failure to make needed repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike, a 143-mile levee that surrounds Lake Okeechobee.

"Because the Obama Administration has failed to act on this issue, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to discharge millions of gallons of water into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries resulting in the growth of blue-green algae which is now entering residential waterways in South Florida," he said. "Although the president has failed to do what is needed to address this growing issue, the state of Florida will devote every available resource to find solutions for the families and businesses in this area."

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Some beaches in Martin County were closed this week as blue-green algae spread, while beach-goers at Lantana Beach in Palm Beach County were warned not to go in the water due to a bacterial spike. Residents have reported a foul stench from the bloom and thick blue-green algae on the water.

"It's heartbreaking for all of us who live, work and play along the lagoon to see how the quality of the water has declined," the environmental non-profit Balance For Earth said.

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