Stuart, Fla. – U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) wrote to Acting Secretary of the Army John Whitley urging him to protect Army personnel working at Lake Okeechobee considering that algae in the Lake recently tested greater than 100 times too toxic for human contact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard.
“I am deeply concerned for the health of the U.S. Army personnel stationed at Port Mayaca and around Lake O. The recent algal bloom outbreak at Pahokee Marina is just the latest in a long line of toxic outbreaks that are truly putting lives at risk,” Rep. Mast said. “Pahokee has rightfully shut down their marina, but this situation is not contained. It is a massive threat to public health, and urgent action is required.”
Rep. Mast is calling for the following immediate actions:
- No U.S Army Corps of Engineers personnel should be placed at structures on or around Lake Okeechobee when cyanotoxins above the EPA limit are present.
- The U.S. Army should provide immediate medical evaluation for the men and women currently working at structures around Lake Okeechobee who have been exposed to the cyanotoxins above the EPA limit.
- The medical files of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel working at structures around Lake Okeechobee should note their exposure to cyanotoxins and the levels of microcystin to which they were exposed. If these individuals develop liver failure, kidney failure, ALS, or Alzheimer’s, it should be considered presumptively service connected.
- There should be daily testing of algae at the structures in order to assess if personnel are being exposed to toxins.
A copy of the letter that Rep. Mast sent to Acting Secretary Whitley is attached.
- According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the algal bloom on Lake Okeechobee recently measured more than 500 square miles, making it larger than the size of New York City and Los Angeles.
- According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, water at the Pahokee Marina tested more than 100 times higher than the health advisory limit issued by the EPA for microcystin, which is caused by harmful algal blooms.
- A study released by the University of Florida found that these toxins can travel roughly 10 miles from the bloom source once airborne.
- According to the EPA, potential health impacts from exposure to these toxins include liver and kidney damage, ALS, Alzheimer’s, and even death.