POLK COUNTY, Fla — Polk County health officials are warning the public to exercise caution in and around Lake Crago after blue-green algae toxins were found in the water.
The health alert comes after Florida Department of Health officials in Polk County found the bloom in a water sample taken on Feb. 15, 2022.
Blue-green algae are a type of bacteria common to Florida freshwater environments, the FDOH reports. The bacteria accumulation is a result of the algae growing in the water at a rapid pace. The algae can cause discoloration to the water and produce floating mats that reek of a bad odor.
Sunny days, warm water temperatures, still water conditions and excess nutrients are all contributing factors to the bloom which are most frequent in the summer and fall.
Blue-green algae blooms can produce toxins that are harmful to human health and ecosystems, including fish and other aquatic animals.
Residents are advised to not drink, swim, wade or use personal watercraft where the bloom is present.
In the event you come in contact with blue-green algae, FDOH says you should wash your skin and clothing with soap and water. Pets should also keep away from blue-green algae as it's not safe for them either.
Other advisories include not cooking or cleaning dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the contaminated water does not eliminate the toxins, officials say.
"Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe," FDOH says. "Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts and cook fish well."
However, do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.