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St. Lucie River: ‘You shouldn’t touch it,’ health expert says

STUART, Fla. —A crowd of more than 100 people packed into a South Florida Water Management District meeting in Jensen Beach on Thursday, hoping to get answers to questions about the St. Lucie River.

Since late May, the Army Corps of Engineers has been discharging water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie estuary. This, along with local runoff, is causing toxic algae blooms to grow.

“It burns and itches and it keeps oozing,” said resident Megan Remick, referring to the rash she got after swimming in the polluted water. Health officials are warning swimmers to keep out.

“You shouldn’t touch it, you shouldn’t be involved in it, stay away from it,” warned Mark Perry, a local environmentalist who has been pressuring the Army Corps and Congress to fund a plan that sends lake water south to the Everglades.

“Get it done, get it planned, and get it in the queue so it gets funded,” he said. “It’s gonna take a decade no matter what you do. Let’s start now. Let’s get it planned and done now.”

The Army Corps has been forced to pump water out of the lake due to rising water levels. On Thursday, Lake Okeechobee officially hit 16 feet. That’s a big deal.

According to a 2000 Army Corps study, at 18 feet, there is a 45-percent risk of a levee breach. At 21 feet, a breach is almost inevitable.

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