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Possible diagnosis of poisoning with toxic algae on Matlacha | News, Sports, Jobs – SANIBEL-CAPTIVA

CARMEN DRISCOLL A channel blocked by algae in Matlacha on June 14.

Water safety and sustainability issues shouldn’t be solved by the public, according to Pine Islanders environmentalists Sue Dahod and Susan McGuire, who sadly say that’s what it happened.

Dahod, a Calusa ranger, recently partnered with the Matlacha / Pine Island Fire Department to test the water in Matlacha, following complaints from residents that they were getting sick from marine toxicity surrounding their homes.

Carmen Driscoll, of Carmen’s Kayaks in Matlacha, said she was one of those victims. After ruling out a possible stroke, due to his symptoms, Driscoll said his condition was diagnosed as poisonous algae poisoning.

Passionate about kayaking, she regularly finds herself very close to local waters, that is to say until recently. Driscoll had to leave the island because of her symptoms, including double vision, tracers, confusion, headaches, and shortness of breath, all of which she attributes to the algae on the Matlacha water.

Not only did the disease affect her business, but her normal daily routine became anything but that, she says.

“I was so confused while driving I had to stop my car to find out where I was”, Driscoll said. “It scared me.”

Driscoll remembers that his vision problems were the first indicator that something was seriously wrong. Sensing that there might be a lump of cotton in her eye, she assumed she could fix the problem with eye drops. After experiencing several other symptoms, Driscoll went to the doctor to find that she could be poisoned by toxins in local waters.

She was warned by her doctor to immediately withdraw from the island.

“It was after the Florida Department of Health and Poison Control told me to leave too,” Driscoll said. “They said it would only get worse if you had this toxin in your body.”

According to Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani, the problem is not new, as the Matlacha Pass was checked altered for nutrient pollution in 2015. The waters have also had known issues with eco-bacteria.

“Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is tasked with shutting down shellfish harvest,” Cassani said, adding that his belief is that it is currently closed due to the recent rainfall.

Checking for depreciation is a task of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Cassani said. This means that the water body in question no longer meets its designated uses. At one point, a restoration program is supposed to be in place, but Cassani said the state is struggling to meet the requirement to restore water bodies.

“Matlacha Pass is a state aquatic reserve”, Cassani said. “It is also considered exceptional Florida water. All the islands of Col Matlacha are designated wildlife sanctuaries. It is a special waterway, which is entitled to the greatest protection the state can give, but here it is altered by nutrient pollution.

The FDEP, he said, mainly covers fresh water, and the Matlacha Pass is mostly marine water, making it difficult to get a definitive answer to the problem, which he says is in the both an ecosystem and human health problem.

“We tested the saxitoxin in April and again in June” Said Cassani, “And we got detectable levels both times. There is an element toxic to cyanobacteria there. “

“There has been a large proliferation of algae in the Matlacha pass for over a month”, said Dahod. “People are sick. People have left the island and we have not reached the root cause of the problem. The source of the toxin may not be the algae directly, it may be the bacteria that consume the algae that make something called hydrogen sulfide, which is itself very toxic. The Department of Health basically does nothing, the county does nothing, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection does nothing. “

Attempts to obtain comments from FDEP and FDOH were unsuccessful.

According to Dahod, the only help so far has come from Calusa Waterkeeper in the form of sampling to find the cause of the toxins, as well as Matlacha / Pine Island Fire Chief Ben Mickuleit, who has lent a helping hand.

After a boat trip through Matlacha with Mickuleit, Dahod said, they found evidence of dead algae at Matlacha Park and on May Street where Driscoll lives.

“We are crowdsourcing public health” said Dahod. “The citizens of the island have to do it themselves.”

The rainy season seems a welcome relief from some of the toxicities reported in the air that can contribute to respiratory issues, as well as other issues. Local rains, according to Dahod, clean the hydrogen sulfide from the air. Although it’s redistributed in water, she said, at least people don’t breathe it directly.

“My plea” Dahod said, “is to try to get a change in policy.”

She attributes the underlying cause of the problems to polluted waterways, identifying the Matlacha Pass as a degraded waterway.

“I am currently collecting data for work done by other organizations”, said Dahod. “I look at the water quality data around Pine Island at the sampling stations that are already there and I looked at one in the Matlacha Pass – it has total nitrogen values ​​above the limit or so. half the time. It does not meet Florida Department of Environmental Protection water quality standards. It has been failing for years and we have failed to improve it.

McGuire, another member of Pine Island ROAR – Rise Up / Organize / Agitate / Resist – member and activist, agrees the issue needs to be addressed at a broader level, saying that although the island is endowed with doctors and scientists , the island had to take the issue of drinking water in hand.

“As residents, we are starting to think that a constitutional amendment on the ballot might be our best chance to make changes,” she said.

A constitutional amendment gives residents more control, rather than waiting for someone to answer the call for clean water, McGuire said.

“The water is putrid” McGuire said. “Why are we the ones testing it? We are the taxpayers.

While being accused of being too political in her search for solutions is nothing new for McGuire, water and public safety, she says, are non-partisan issues, adding the islanders won’t get it right. a better reaction until they have a higher level of consciousness.

“We can’t blame people for what they don’t know” McGuire said. “Clean water is a necessity, not a radical idea.”

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