Department of Health warns of blue-green algae on St. Johns River near Mandarin Point

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Department of Health is warning people of harmful blue-green algae in parts of the St. Johns River near Mandarin Point.

The department is cautioning people to stay out of water with visible blue-green algae blooms. That even means not being on boats or water skis, the department said in a news release.

Riju Thomas lives near the St. Johns River. He goes boating, jet skiing and fishing frequently.

“I was hoping this weekend since I’ll be in town to maybe go out kayaking or go out in the water a little bit,” he said.

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But the health department’s warning has him thinking twice. The health department says blue-green algae is a bacteria that can be toxic to people and animals.

“Unfortunately we just can’t be around it, so that’s something you just need to be mindful of,” Thomas added.

The health department says blue-green algae is common in Florida’s freshwater environments. Sunny days and warm, still water can cause blooms to form.

Action News Jax spoke with Scott Turner, the director of environmental health with the Florida Department of Health in Duval County.

“What we’re seeing, though, that’s specific to Mandarin Point is that a water sample was taken a few days ago and the results came back with low levels of toxins,” Turner said.

The health department says if you come in contact with blue-green algae, you should wash your skin and clothes right away. The health department also warns Floridians to keep pets away from water with blue-green algae as it’s harmful to animals.

Thomas says it’s better to be safe than sorry.

“If it’s not safe to be around, then definitely stay away from it,” Thomas said.

The Health Department tells Action News Jax it monitors water throughout the year, sampling it every other week.

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You can report a bloom to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection at 855-305-3903.

If you’ve been exposed, you can call the Poison Information Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Contact your veterinarian if you believe your pet has become ill after consuming or having contact with water contaminated with blue-green algae.