A blue-green algae bloom near the St. Lucie Canal (upper right) in Lake Okeechobee, Fla., July 2, 2016.
Joshua Stevens—NASA Earth Observatory
By Marisa Gertz
July 6, 2016

Algae blooms are a normal summertime occurrence at Florida’s Lake Okeechobee—but this year, the bloom has grown out of control, covering 85 sq. km. and affecting water quality all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

On July 2, the Landsat 8 satellite captured this natural-color image of the lake’s blue-green algae bloom. The lake is polluted with runoff from farms, spurring algae growth, and discharge from the lake travels through the St. Lucie Canal to spread those conditions throughout the water system.

A blue-green algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee, Fla., July 2, 2016.
Joshua Stevens—NASA Earth Observatory

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency on June 29 for Martin, St. Lucie, Palm Beach and Lee counties. The Florida Department of Health advised people to avoid contact with all algal blooms, as even breathing in water spray “can affect the gastrointestinal tract, liver, nervous system, and skin.”

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