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Test Results: Unsafe Levels of Algal Toxins

Test Results: Unsafe Levels of Algal Toxins Algal Bloom in the St. Johns River at Jacksonville University

On October 7, 2013, St. Johns Riverkeeper took two algae samples from the St. Johns River to GreenWater Laboratories in Palatka for analysis.  The test results detected total microcystin toxin levels at 1085 and 2080 micrograms per liter, or more than 50 and 100 times higher than the recommended recreational exposure threshold of 20 micrograms per liter from the World Health Organization (WHO).   Click here to see the lab report.

The water samples were taken from a heavy surficial accumulation of algae from the shoreline at Jacksonville University.  Exposure to algal toxins can cause adverse health effects in humans and animals, including skin irritation, flu-like stomach ailments, hay fever-like symptoms, itchy eyes, asthma, and liver damage. 

Precautions should always be taken to limit or avoid contact with algal blooms and algal toxins.  Do not drink, cook, or bathe with untreated water from lakes, ponds, or rivers. Do not allow pets or livestock to swim in or drink scummy water.  If you, your children or your animals accidently come in contact with an algal bloom, wash with fresh water and soap after skin contact and avoid swallowing or inhaling water.  Wash your animals thoroughly before they start to groom themselves.  People with liver problems (such as cirrhosis or hepatitis) may be at increased risk of harm from these toxins. Learn more at the GreenWater Laboratories website.

Algal blooms often occur as a result of excessive concentration of nutrients, in our river and waterways.  Too much nitrogen and phosphorous can feed uncontrolled algal blooms that deplete oxygen in the water needed by fish, reduce light that is essential to submerged vegetation, and threaten the health of both humans and aquatic life. 

The St. Johns suffers from an excess of nutrients from failing septic tanks, manure, commercial and municipal wastewater discharges, stormwater runoff, and fertilizers that regularly wash into the river.

We all can make a difference by reducing our use of fertilizers, preventing runoff, maintaining septic tanks, and adopting other River Friendly practices.  Click here to learn more about what you can do to help protect the St. Johns.  

"Based on the algae concentrations in the samples, this is probably indicative of a worst-case scenario, " states Lisa Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper. "However, the results demonstrate the high levels of dangerous toxins that some of these blooms can produce.  It also demonstrates the urgent need to adopt tough numeric standards to limit the amount of nutrient pollution going into our river.  Until we do, our river will continue to be sick and the health of our families will continue to be at risk from exposure to algal blooms and toxins." 

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