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Lake Frances closed: Local health officials warn of algal blooms

John Willoughby: Greene Publishing, Inc.

Residents are being asked to be cautious of the waters of Lake Frances as algal blooms were reported to local health officials. As officials await testing, residents are asked to stay away from the freshwater lake in Madison until further information is provided.

Kimberly Allbritton, health officer/administrator for the Florida Department of Health – Madison County, informed the City of Madison that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) sampled surface water at Lake Frances for cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), after an algal bloom was reported to the Florida Department of Health on Wednesday, Aug. 14.

The test will inform local officials of any toxins that may be present and, if detected by laboratory analysis, local officials will receive notification from the Bureau of Environmental Health and, if warranted, a health alert will be issued.

Blue-Green Algae is common in Florida water bodies, and the concentration of the algae, known as blooms, can change the water's color to blue, green, brown, orange or red. Though blooms are more common in the summer and fall, blooms can appear throughout the year.

Blue-Green Algae can grow rapidly and sometimes form a foamy surface scum and an unpleasant odor. The presence of algae can diminish oxygen from the water, causing fish to die.

According to Madison City Hall Clerk Lee Anne Hall, the lake is closed until further notice and residents are advised to be cautious of the following:

It is imperative that no activity on the water take place where algae blooms are present, such as swimming, wading or use of personal watercraft like water ski or boats. Others are asked to be careful as not to swallow the water. Blooms can cause ear, eye and skin reaction, and hay fever and flu-like symptoms, such as diarrhea. If you have come in contact with algae, discolored or smelly water, be sure to wash your skin and clothing with soap and water.

Additionally, do not cook or clean with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins. Furthermore, fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms are safe to eat; however, be sure to rinse fish filets with tap or bottled water. Throw out the guts and be sure to cook the fish well. However, do not eat shellfish from Lake Frances.

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