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Highly toxic algal bloom prompts health alert for Moody Lake in Pasco County

The blue-green algal bloom contained harmful levels of toxin, but the area is largely removed from public access.
A harmful algal bloom was photographed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on Wednesday on Moody Lake in Pasco County.
A harmful algal bloom was photographed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on Wednesday on Moody Lake in Pasco County. [ Florida Department of Environmental Protection ]
Published Nov. 7|Updated Nov. 8

The public should stay away from the water at Moody Lake in Pasco County because it contains harmful levels of toxic algae, state health officials warned Monday.

The cyanobacteria organism, commonly called blue-green algae because of its bright colors, contained 950 parts per billion of the toxin known as microcystin, according to data from Florida Department of Environmental Protection water samples.

That’s more than 100 times more toxic than what the Environmental Protection Agency deems is safe for humans. If water contains 8 parts per billion of the toxin or more, it can become dangerous for humans and animals swimming or breathing near the tainted waterbody.

The good news is that there’s little chance the public would be near where this toxic algal bloom was documented, according to Christina Louv, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health in Pasco County.

“There is no direct access for the public,” Louv wrote in an email. “The only access to the lake appears to be from the property owners, and they may or may not have a dock on their property.”

From the sky, the location where state water samplers measured the toxic algal bloom is on the lake’s southwestern shoreline, which is heavily wooded, according to a comparison of state data and satellite imagery. Moody Lake used to be one contiguous body of water until it was split in two by Interstate 75.

The health department’s office in Pasco County warned that residents and visitors should not drink, wade, swim or use boats where an algal bloom is visible. In this case, it’s easy to spot: Images uploaded to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection database show a guacamolelike slime plaguing the water. If you do have contact with an algal bloom, health experts suggest washing your skin and clothes with soap and water.

Health officials also urge the public to keep pets away from the area. If you’re fishing in the area, you can eat fish fillets if they are rinsed with tap or bottled water and they are cooked well, according to the Pasco County health department. You shouldn’t eat shellfish in waters contaminated by a harmful algal bloom, though.

The surface area of Moody Lake is approximately 200 acres, according to the University of South Florida’s Atlas of Lakes.

“Waters where there are algae blooms are not safe for animals,” the health department warned in its news release. “Pets and livestock should have a different source of water when algae blooms are present.”

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