Hillsborough issues health alert to red tide; Pinellas says the beaches are clear

The red tide shouldn’t be a problem for most Pinellas beachgoers this weekend, county officials say. But Hillsborough County is another story.

Authorities have issued a health alert there indicating that the red tide could cause respiratory problems for anyone planning to visit the beaches of Davis Islands and Picnic Island and have placed warning signs for Ben T. Davis. and at Cypress Point.

The fact that two neighboring counties release drastically different assessments on Friday underscores how difficult it is to predict where and when the current outbreak of toxic algae blooms will strike along Tampa Bay and the Gulf.

“It’s always a big deal when the red tide comes up in the bay because it’s not an annual event,” said Maya Burke, deputy director of the Tampa Bay Estuary program.

Related: On the beaches of Pinellas, traders observe the evolution of the conditions of the red tide

But this particular bloom, she said, has been patchy, making it difficult to know which areas might be clear – and some are – and which might cause swimmers or boaters to experience a sore throat. and a runny nose.

“It’s very difficult to follow,” said Burke.

Here is the weekend situation on both sides of the bay:

Most Pinellas beaches “show little or no sign” of flowering, depending on the county. The exception is Honeymoon Island, where Friday’s Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission report shows a high concentration detected off the east coast.

Dead fish and a few flowers have been spotted in the Intracoastal Waterway, Anclote Key to the south, Boca Ciega Bay and near Gulfport Pier. Clean-up crews were removing tons of dead fish from beaches just days ago, but now the county is reporting they are withdrawing and hauling dumpsters and other heavy equipment.

The only other high concentration near the coast of Pinellas was found on the other side of the peninsula, near the channel of the Venetian Islands in St. Petersburg. But the county did not highlight any issues there.

Related: Environmentalists file federal complaint in Piney Point disaster

The state on Friday detected 16 average concentrations of Karenia brevis, which causes toxic algal blooms, floating next to each other along the southern border of Hillsborough and northern manatees. Scientists have studied a link between current blooms and the 215 million gallons of polluted sewage dumped into Tampa Bay in April from the former Piney Point fertilizer plant in Manatee.

A health alert has been issued for Davis Islands and Picnic Island and health officials are warning that anyone in these areas can experience eye, nose and throat irritation and have breathing problems. Asthmatics should therefore avoid the area.

The same health effects could be felt at Ben T. Davis and Cypress Point, where authorities have posted warning signs. The best way to avoid or lessen these symptoms is to go inside or leave the area.

Times writer Zachary T. Sampson contributed to this report.

Related: Fail at Piney Point: Florida lets environmental risk escalate despite warnings

• • •

Resources of the Red Tide

There are several resources that can help residents stay informed and share information about Red Tide:

Florida Poison Control Centers have a free 24/7 hotline to report illnesses including exposure to red tide: 800-222-1222

Visit St. Pete / Clearwater, the County Tourism Wing, operates an online beach dashboard at www.beachesupdate.com.

The agency is asking business owners to email reports of red tide issues to [email protected]

Pinellas County shares information with the Red Tide Respiratory Prediction Tool that allows beach goers to check for warnings.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has a website that shows where the red tide is detected and how high the concentrations are.

• • •

How to stay safe near water

  • Beach goers should avoid swimming around dead fish.
  • People with chronic respiratory problems should be especially careful and “consider staying away” from areas where the red tide is blossoming.
  • People should not harvest or eat shellfish or distressed and dead fish from the area. Healthy fish fillets should be rinsed with clean water and the entrails discarded.
  • Pet owners should keep their pets away from water and dead fish.
  • Residents living near the beach should close their windows and run air conditioners with appropriate filters.
  • Visitors to the beach may wear paper masks, especially if the wind is blowing.

Source: Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County

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