Mysterious, smelly algae covers Florida's shore

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Florida's Waters Are Dripping With Disgusting Algae, and It Smells

Florida's waters are covered in mysterious algae. It first appeared last month and seems to be growing. The source is thought to be from the polluted Lake Okeechobee, located in Palm Beach.

Not only is the algae unsightly, but it's hurting Florida residents -- human and otherwise. People have been getting rashes and coughs. Due to the algae soaking up the water's oxygen, it is also threatening fish, birds, and sea mammals.

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This has prompted the Florida Gov. Rick Scott to call for a state of emergency in several counties: Martin, St. Lucie, and Palm Beach.

Commissioner in Martin County, Doug Smith, told local newspaper Palm Beach Post, "This is our Deep Water Horizon," referencing the BP oil spill in 2010. "It's time the federal and state government understand how God-awful the problem is here."

"The smell is so bad it will make you gag. We have red eyes and scratchy throats. We can smell it in our office. It's terrible," said Mary Radabaugh, one of about 250 people that came to an emergency meeting in Martin County about the algae.

While some blame Lake Okeechobee, others blame the Army Corps, who released billions of gallons in overflow flood water into Florida rivers and lakes.

"After visiting with local elected officials in Martin County yesterday and viewing the algae first hand, we felt compelled to take action, even though we need to remain vigilant in managing the level of Lake Okeechobee," said Col. Jason Kirk, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District Commander.

RELATED: See Hong Kong's glowing algae

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Hong Kong glowing algae
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Hong Kong glowing algae
This Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015 photo made with a long exposure shows the glow from a Noctiluca scintillans algal bloom along the seashore in Hong Kong. The luminescence, also called Sea Sparkle, is triggered by farm pollution that can be devastating to marine life and local fisheries, according to University of Georgia oceanographer Samantha Joye. Noctiluca itself does not produce neurotoxins like other similar organisms do. But its role as both prey and predator tends can eventually magnify the accumulation of toxins in the food chain, according to R. Eugene Turner at Louisiana State University. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
This Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015 photo made with a long exposure shows the glow from a Noctiluca scintillans algal bloom along the seashore in Hong Kong. The luminescence, also called Sea Sparkle, is triggered by farm pollution that can be devastating to marine life and local fisheries, according to University of Georgia oceanographer Samantha Joye. Noctiluca itself does not produce neurotoxins like other similar organisms do. But its role as both prey and predator tends can eventually magnify the accumulation of toxins in the food chain, according to R. Eugene Turner at Louisiana State University. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
This Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015 photo made with a long exposure shows the glow from a Noctiluca scintillans algal bloom along the seashore in Hong Kong. The luminescence, also called Sea Sparkle, is triggered by farm pollution that can be devastating to marine life and local fisheries, according to University of Georgia oceanographer Samantha Joye. Noctiluca itself does not produce neurotoxins like other similar organisms do. But its role as both prey and predator tends can eventually magnify the accumulation of toxins in the food chain, according to R. Eugene Turner at Louisiana State University. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
This Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015 photo made with a long exposure shows the glow from a Noctiluca scintillans algal bloom along the seashore in Hong Kong. The luminescence, also called Sea Sparkle, is triggered by farm pollution that can be devastating to marine life and local fisheries, according to University of Georgia oceanographer Samantha Joye. Noctiluca itself does not produce neurotoxins like other similar organisms do. But its role as both prey and predator tends can eventually magnify the accumulation of toxins in the food chain, according to R. Eugene Turner at Louisiana State University. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Bioluminescent algae Noctiluca Scintillans on the Maldivian islands.
Bioluminescent algae Noctiluca Scintillans on the Maldivian islands.
Heart on the beach from bioluminescent algae Noctiluca Scintillans on the Maldivian islands.
Bioluminescent algae Noctiluca Scintillans on the Maldivian islands.
Bioluminescent algae Noctiluca Scintillans on the Maldivian islands.
Bioluminescent Algae at Manly Beach
Bioluminescence in waves in the Gippsland Lakes, Victoria, Australia.
A photo of red tide taken from Moonlight Beach in San Diego California. Red Tide is a phenomenon in which microscopic organisms called phytoplankton bloom rapidly causing a discoloration of the water. San Diegans are familiar with the brownish-red waters that commonly accumulate in the late summer along our coastline. I have always explained that “it’s like surfing in an ocean of iced tea”… far from pleasant. However, when night falls, a bioluminescent glow begins. Any physical disturbance causes the organisms to “react” with a flash of brilliant blue light. This happens naturally when waves break, but also through personal interaction with the waters or wet sand. This year, we’ve been treated to a particularly amazing display of Lingulodinium polyedrum, an intensely strong bioluminescent.
Illumination of plankton at Maldives. Many particles at black background.
Bioluminescent algae Noctiluca Scintillans on the Matsu island
Star trails and bioluminescence in the Gippsland Lakes, Victoria, Australia.
Bioluminescence splashes in the Gippsland Lakes, Victoria, Australia.
Star trails and bioluminescence in the Gippsland Lakes, Victoria, Australia.
Star trails and bioluminescence in the Gippsland Lakes, Victoria, Australia.
Star trails and bioluminescence in the Gippsland Lakes, Victoria, Australia.
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Scott assured residents at the emergency meeting that actions are being taken as well. While the federal government has spent over $700 million to move overflow water to the south rather than the coasts, Scott insists more steps should be taken.

Local representatives in the Martin County Commission, too, resolved to solve the issue. Some were satisfied, like resident Marjorie Shropshire: "It's a good start. The commission has to keep the pressure on. This is a real public health hazard."

Others are still upset, like 8-year-old Cooper Rausmussen: "I can't go fishing. I can't go swimming. I hate to see fish die. Please help us."

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