NASA captured the Lake O algae outbreak from space, and here's what it looks like

Last week, as a toxic algal sludge oozed throughout waterways on Florida's east coast, NASA's Earth Observatory managed to grab a photo or two of the also algae-covered source of the coastal sludge, Lake Okeechobee.

The imagery shows much of the surface of Lake O, which is something of a dumping ground for nutrient-dense agricultural runoff, covered emerald green, which is believed to be blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria.

After particularly heavy rain events, that lake water gets flushed out to either coast via manmade canal, algae and all, in order to keep the lake from overflowing.

Here's an explanation from NASA on why this is bad:

The river outflow carried nitrogen and phosphorous from the lake; it also freshened some downstream areas that are usually too salty for much algae growth. On June 29, Florida’s governor declared a state of emergency in Martin and St. Lucie counties after the blooms appeared in local waterways.
According to news reports, water samples collected from the lake and from the river near Stuart tested positive for high levels of toxins produced by the algae. The algae and their toxins can disrupt ecosystems. They also pose concerns for human health, as ingesting algae-tainted water can cause nausea, vomiting and, in extreme cases, liver failure.

So, yeah, gross.

Environmental groups are urging the state to use a voter-approved funding source very specifically intended for buying up land for environmental protection. That money, they reason, should be used to buy up land south of the lake in order to send the water south through the Everglades, which is how it naturally flowed before humans drained and carved up much of South Florida.

The state, instead, used that money to cover administrative and personnel costs for the Florida Department of Environmental protection (and shifting that department's regular budget elsewhere as if Florida's environmental health were about as important as an underwater basket weaving class).

Governor Scott and his administration, meanwhile, are responding in the best way they know how: by blaming Obama.


Since 1988, CL Tampa Bay has served as the free, independent voice of Tampa Bay, and we want to keep it that way.

Becoming a CL Tampa Bay Supporter for as little as $5 a month allows us to continue offering readers access to our coverage of local news, food, nightlife, events, and culture with no paywalls.

Join today because you love us, too.

Scroll to read more Florida News articles

Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.