Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, urged President Obama in a letter to declare a federal emergency in Florida following a toxic algal bloom in the southeastern part of the state, according to a press release.
The representative said the bloom will have drastic effects on Floridians’ health, environment and economy.
On Jan. 30, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dumped water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary in a flood-prevention measure. The water was high in fertilizer and nutrients, which when released into coastal waters low in nutrients, caused the algal bloom, which is now 200 square miles, according to Buchanan.
“My home state of Florida is a national treasure, and vital to sustaining a thriving national economy,” he wrote in the letter.
According to the Florida Department of Health, exposure to blue-green algae in high concentrations can cause issues in the gastrointestinal tract, liver, nervous system and skin.
Buchanan said South Florida industries such as fishing and boating have been affected by the thick, smelly algae.
“In light of the threat toxic algae blooms pose to Floridians, I urge you to issue a federal emergency declaration before it is too late,” he wrote to the president.