Lake Ola is a 426-acre body of water that sits in the northwest corner of Orange County near the town of Tangerine, about eight miles from the center of Apopka.
Residents around Lake Ola were not pleased to receive this notice on Friday:
"Recent lab results from a sample collected on Lake Ola indicate the presence of algae toxins in the water column. As a result, Lake Ola will be closely monitored by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) staff. The FDEP will collect follow-up samples for analysis at a future date (possibly 1-3 weeks) determined by the FDEP for Lake Ola and will provide updates on any possible detection of algae toxins as reported on the FDEP Algal Bloom Reporting dashboard (https://floridadep.gov/AlgalBloom). Please refrain from irrigating or recreating on the lake, including swimming, fishing, and boating, until further notice."
According to the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions if the presence of blue-green algae bloom exists:
What is blue-green algae?
Blue-green algae are a type of bacteria that is common in Florida’s freshwater environments. A bloom occurs when the rapid growth of algae leads to an accumulation of individual cells that discolor water and often produce floating mats that emit unpleasant odors.
Some environmental factors that contribute to blue-green algae blooms are sunny days, warm water temperatures, still water conditions, and excess nutrients. Blooms can appear year-round but are more frequent in summer and fall. Many types of blue-green algae can produce toxins.
Is it harmful?
Blue-green algae blooms can impact human health and ecosystems, including fish and other aquatic animals.
The Notice originated from OCALERT.net and was emailed to subscribers of the Alert Service that informs Orange County residents of environmental and health hazards and severe weather warnings. The Health Department also publishes its own Alerts and distributes its standard channels, like the Orange County Water Atlas. https://orange.wateratlas.usf.edu/news/details/21649
More details can be found in the Orange County Health Department publication. This material includes information about what to do if fish, people, or pets become affected by toxins.
The Statewide data is curated and published by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) as part of their ongoing Blue-Green Algal Bloom monitoring program that was initiated during the last few years in response to water quality woes throughout the state. Interested parties can subscribe to receive Weekly Updates by email. https://floridadep.gov/AlgalBloomWeeklyUpdate
Kim Buchheit, the Orange Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor, Group 2, released the following statement to The Apopka Voice about the notice:
"On behalf of my constituents, I have taken a keen interest in understanding what is causing this particular Algal Bloom in Lake Ola, one of the last remaining "clean" Lakes in Northwest Orange County (in the vicinity of Lake Apopka). Residents have been trying to get Orange County's attention and alert the St. Johns River Water Management (SJRWMD) District about unpermitted storm drainage systems discharging directly into Lake Ola and other environmental issues in the area for years, to no avail."
According to Buchheit, she was well aware of this issue on Lake Ola even before the alert.
"Since 2020, I have worked alongside Lake Ola homeowners and have shared information with the Tangerine Improvement Society and the Lake Ola Advisory Board to help to keep Lake Ola clean, despite Orange County's and the SJRWMD's lack of attention to mounting concerns over the past 15 years."
Buchheit concludes her statement with advice and a warning for the future of Lake Ola.
"It may be our time to pay the piper for years of neglectful environmental protection practices. I think we need to recognize problems better before they become monstrous and expensive to fix. But that is a discussion for another day. Meanwhile, add Lake Ola to the list of lakes that might just be hazardous to our health."
Orange County Commissioner (District 2) Christine Moore was contacted for a response about Lake Ola but declined to comment because of pending litigation.
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