POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The Florida Department of Health in Polk County has issued a health alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in Lake Hamilton East.

The alert was issued due to a water sample taken on May 17. Officials said the public should exercise caution in and around Lake Hamilton East (Sample Park).

Blue-green algae are a type of bacteria common in Florida’s freshwater environments. Sunny days, warm water temperatures and still water conditions with excess nutrients can contribute to blue-green algae blooms.

“A bloom occurs when rapid growth of algae leads to an accumulation of individual cells that discolor water and often produce floating mats that emit unpleasant odors,” a press release from the Florida Department of Health in Polk County stated.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski or boat in areas where there is a visible bloom.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have contact with algae or discolored or smelly water.
  • Keep pets away from the area.
  • Boiling water will not eliminate toxins. Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms.

Health officials said eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing algae blooms is safe. Fish fillets should be rinsed with tap or bottled water. Fish guts should be thrown away and fish should be cooked well. Shellfish from waters with algae blooms should not be eaten.

To report a blue-green algae bloom, call the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s toll-free hotline at 855-305-3903 or report online. To report fish kills, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute at 1-800-636-0511.