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Large blooms of toxic algae are spreading through the waters of coastal Florida, allegedly causing health problems and scaring away beachgoing tourists.
The green "guacamole-thick" sludge is piling up on beaches and recently led Florida Governor Rick Scott to declare states of emergency in at least four counties, according to the Associated Press.
The algal blooms are being blamed on polluted water flowing from Lake Okeechobee, which has been on the verge of overflow. Historically high rains in the state led the Army Corps of Engineers to discharge greater amounts of polluted — and bloom-inducing — water from Okeechobee into the rivers and lagoons downstream.
Over the weekend, the Army Corps of Engineers began reducing the flows from the lake.
Pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorous are commonly found in fertilizers, storm runoff and wastewater, among other sources. An excess of these nutrients in the water can produce these blooms, if the sun is shining and the water is relatively still.
Many of these blue-green algae species produce toxins, such as domoic acid, which can be extremely harmful to mammals. Some Floridians, and visitors to the area, are complaining of respiratory problems caused by the algae.
A toxic algal bloom off the West Coast was linked to seizures in sea lions, and massive die-offs of marine mammals, such baby whales.