Algae Covering Wakulla Beach

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The Wakulla County Health Department is warning people to stay out of the water at some county beaches. There are high bacteria levels at two beaches, another is covered in an algae bloom die off. The algae is creating a thick, sticky muck residents say smells so bad it could "kill a maggot."

Cal Jamison had no idea what it was when it started washing up on Wakulla Beach last week.

He said, "It was pretty much pervasive all over the beach."

The Department of Environmental Protection tested the "goo" and confirmed it as a diatom algae, probably from a bloom die off offshore.

Bill Kennedy has been coming to the beach for 60 years and said, "I've heard various stories about it being a diatom, it's a natural occurrence. All I can tell you is I've never seen it before in my lifetime."

The Wakulla County Health Department is advising people to avoid swimming in the beach water at St. Mark's Wildlife Refuge. The county's health department already closed two beaches, Mashes Sands and Shell Point due to high bacterial levels.

Padraic Juaurez, Environmental Administrator with the Wakulla County Health Department, said, "Our beaches, compared to across the state, close more often than the other beaches do, but they've been closed for quite some time now."

Juaurez says it's unusual for the beaches to be closed for this long.

He said, "The diatoms are an algae and that may be because there's a higher level of nutrients in the water that may have triggered the bloom. I'm not 100 percent familiar with what could be causing it, but that is a possibility."

FSU Biology Department's Dr. Laura Keller says the type of algae can flourish if the temperature and nutrient level is just right. She says it can also cause health problems like itchy eyes and skin and if ingested, stomach cramps and diarrhea. However, since that beach has very little wave action, as long as people stay out of the water, the county health department says it should not pose a significant health threat.

Additional tests are being done to make sure it's only algae in the water and no sewer water present. Those results are due back in the next few days.