The bright blue-green algae that forced Treasure Coast officials to close some beaches in Martin County, it is not expected to turn up along Palm Beach County’s coastline, environmental experts said Monday.
Although the algae was found blanketing Summa Beach Park on the Intracoastal Waterway in West Palm Beach last week, a top county environmental official said it is highly the algae bloom will make its way onto county beaches.
Water managers have said it appears the algae bloom was caused by nutrient-rich water in the C-51 drainage canal, which is used to dumped runoff from inland Palm Beach County into the Intracoastal.
Summa Beach Park is located just north of the C-51 canal.
Rob Robbins, head of Palm Beach County’s department of environmental resources management, said in order for the bloom to reach the ocean, it would have to travel miles along the Intracoastal, and then be swept out through one of the inlets. That is not likely, he added.
“It is a long way from the C-51 to the nearest inlet,” Robbins said.
Meanwhile, ocean currents would prevent algae from Martin County from traveling south along the coastline, said Laurent Cherubin, a research professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce.
“Most of the plumes from the inlet tend to be moved north,” Cherubin said. “If it is pushed south, it is probably because of bad weather. Big swell create those along shore currents and that move everything south.”
Officials with Discover The Palm Beaches, the county’s tourism marketing arm, declined to comment on whether Martin County’s beach closures might impact tourism here.
Leigh Bennett, the business development director for Visit Palm Beach, the tourism company that runs the West Palm Beach visitor information center and also provides waterfront recreational activities in West Palm Beach and on Singer Island, said she has seen an uptick in the number of Treasure Coast residents traveling to Palm Beach County to kayak, paddle board, snorkel and jet ski.
“As a business person, I am thankful that it is not affecting our business yet,” Bennett said. “We aren’t seeing it in the water. We aren’t having people frightened by it. It has not slowed down. If anything, we may even bet getting more traffic.”
Bennett said the company’s annual Fourth of July fireworks cruise has been sold out for months, but said there are some spaces available for several other holiday weekend tours and activities.
“We are pretty full,” Bennett said. “We are looking forward to a busy weekend.”
Robbins said popular snorkeling spots in the Intracoastal near Peanut Island have not been affected by the algae, adding that he doesn’t expect the bloom to travel that far.
“I would be surprise if we did see it all the way to Peanut Island,” Robbins said.