Florida

Taking an end-of-summer getaway to Sanibel Island? The beach water has a problem

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers looking for ways to combat algae blooms

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is testing a water filtration system that helps collect and remove algae blooms. They're hoping to use the system at a larger scale to remove algae blooms from Lake Okeechobee.
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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is testing a water filtration system that helps collect and remove algae blooms. They're hoping to use the system at a larger scale to remove algae blooms from Lake Okeechobee.

Sanibel is a popular beach getaway for all the stressed-out people in South Florida.

But now there is something to get stressed out about in Sanibel: murky water along the beachfront.

Aerial footage from local news outlets this week shows a clear divide in the island’s water condition. One side has clear water, the other has brown water near the shoreline.

The beaches considered to be in Sanibel Island are Lighthouse Beach, Gulfside City Park, Tarpon Beach, Bowman’s Beach and Blind Pass Beach, according to The Islands of Sanibel Captiva website.

The murky water might look ugly, but it isn’t considered a health threat at the moment.

The brown water was caused by a spike in freshwater runoff following the areas recent heavy rainfall and could lead to algae blooms developing, according to Holly Milbrandt, Sanibel’s acting natural resources director.

Milbrandt said the runoff is from the Caloosahatchee watershed and is “typical” during the summer rainy season. It became visible Tuesday around Sanibel Lighthouse Beach Park, she said, and is most noticeable at or around low tide.

“At this time, we have not observed the area of dark freshwater extending to any other Sanibel Beaches,” Milbrandt wrote in an email Thursday afternoon.

The Mote Marine Laboratory provides estimate beach condition reports for select beaches on the southwest coast of Florida and the Florida Panhandle. These reports are “subjective” and are meant to tell beachgoers which beach they might like to visit at a particular time.

The laboratory recorded Lighthouse Beach to be “dark,” which means it has thick or murky water.

lighthouse mote laboratory.PNG
The Mote Marine Laboratory recorded Lighthouse Beach to be “dark,” which means it has thick or murky water. Screenshot of Mote Marine Laboratory website

As of Thursday, the Florida Department of Health in Lee County has not issued any advisories or warning for the area, but are reminding people to be cautious.

“Water and wounds do not mix,” the department said. “Do not enter the water if you have fresh cuts or scapes.”

Those who have weak immune systems should also be careful and wear proper foot protection to avoid being cut or injured by rocks and shells, according to the department.

The dark water could also affect clams, oysters and seagrass, Wink News reports.

The county’s Florida Healthy Beaches Program also tested Lighthouse Beach, Bowman’s Beach, and Blind Pass Beach this week and found them to be in “good” condition. Sanibal Causeway was also tested and found to be in “good” condition, but there was no recent reports for Gulfside City Park.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection frequently monitor water quality, and routinely collect algal bloom samples. When toxicity levels present a risk to human health, the state will issue advisories and may also post warning signs.

Capt. Chad Huff found an 80- to 100-pound tarpon floating dead in August near Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel, where some of the worst fish kills have occurred since a red tide appeared off Southwest Florida in October 2017.

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Real Time/Breaking News Reporter. There’s never a dull moment in Florida — and I cover it. Graduated with honors from Florida International University. Find me on Twitter @TweetMichelleM
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