Frequently Asked Questions

What is blue-green algae?

Blue-green algae is a group of organisms that thrive in freshwater but can be found in saltwater or in mixed brackish water. It is important that adults, children and pets avoid swimming in or drinking water containing blue-green algae. It is best not to come in to contact with water in areas where you see blue-green algae. It also has been found to share some characteristics with bacteria, which has led to them being referred to as “cyanobacteria.”

For more FAQ’s on blue green algae click here.


What is enterococci?

St. Lucie’s ocean and river water testing is based upon Florida’s statewide beach testing program which tests for enterococci. Enterococci, are indicator bacteria indicating fecal contamination and the possible presence of disease-causing organisms. All natural bodies of water contain microscopic organisms including fecal bacteria and parasites that cause gastro-intestinal illness in people.


What do I do if I see a “Swimming Advisory Sign” at a location?

There is always a potential risk of contracting a swimming-related illness when the water is contaminated. However, the outcome depends on each person’s overall health status.


How can I help protect myself and family?

A few simple precautions can help you and your family protect your health and safety:

  • Don’t swallow the water
  • Shower after swimming
  • Wash hands before eating
  • Avoid water contacting an open cut, wound or skin infection
  • Pay attention and follow advisory signs


How can I help protect the environment?

Here are some suggestions to keep our waters clean:

  • Don’t swim if you are ill
  • Don’t feed the birds
  • Dispose of trash in appropriate containers
  • Change baby diapers before allowing them to swim
  • Don’t dump household chemicals or wastes in street drains
  • Avoid using excess fertilizers or pesticides on lawns
  • Report possible sources of contamination to local authorities


For more information on the bacteria testing at our beaches and rivers, click here.


What is red tide?
In Florida, red tide is a naturally occurring microscopic algae called Karenia brevis or K. brevisthat is present in background conditions throughout the year in the Gulf of Mexico. It occurs in saltwater and when natural conditions are right, the organism can form blooms off the coast producing a toxin that can affect the central nervous systems of fish and wildlife. At high concentrations, the blooms may discolor the water – sometimes red, light or dark green, brown or clear.

How long will it last?
Red tide blooms can last days, weeks or months and can also change daily due to wind conditions. Onshore winds normally bring it near the shore and offshore winds drive it out to sea.

Can people swim in red tide?
Most people can swim in red tide, but it can cause skin irritation and burning eyes. If you experience irritation, get out and thoroughly wash off with fresh water.

What are symptoms from breathing in red tide toxins?
For most people, coughing, sneezing and teary eyes are temporary symptoms. People with chronic respiratory problems, like asthma and COPD should avoid red tide areas.

Can pets swim in red tide?
If your pet swims in a red tide patch at the beach, a thorough freshwater rinse as soon as possible is essential. Don’t let your pet play in any sea foam – the foam has been shown to be more toxic than water.


For more information on red tide, click here.