Toxic Algae Blooms Infesting Florida Beaches Are Putting a Damper on 4th of July Celebrations

The "vile"-smelling, "guacamole-thick" algae is keeping beach-goers away.

July 4, 2016, 12:18 PM

— -- What officials have called "unprecedented" toxic algae blooms in some of southern Florida's beaches and waterways is creating a messy 4th of July holiday for those in the area.

Thousands of residents and tourists have had to cancel plans to celebrate on the area's usually packed beaches -- keeping the majority of celebrations inland.

The algae, which has been described as "vile"-smelling and "guacamole-thick," still remained in the waterways of Martin County this morning -- more than two weeks after the first reports of algae blooms came in.

An aerial photo shows blue-green algae enveloping an area along the St. Lucie River in Stuart, Fla., June 29, 2016.
Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post via AP

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in four counties.

Numerous beaches along Florida's Treasure Coast were closed last week, and though most have since reopened, officials told ABC News that they still do not recommend that people go in the water and that the beaches could be closed at any point.

Bathtub Beach in Martin County remained closed to swimmers this morning due to the presence of blue-green algae.

The toxic algae bloom invasions started more than two weeks ago after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Jacksonville, Florida dumped polluted water out of Lake Okeechobee to prevent flooding, according to officials.

Boats docked at Central Marine in Stuart, Fla., are surrounded by blue green algae, June 29, 2016. Officials want federal action along the stretch of Florida's Atlantic coast where the governor has declared a state of emergency over algae blooms.
Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post via AP

"It has been a challenging year for south Florida,” the Corps' district commander, Col. Jason Kirk, explained in a statement. "Our water managers have dealt with such large quantities of rain and runoff entering the lake that it would cover the entire state of Delaware in two feet of water."

But after seeing the algae first-hand and getting numerous complaints from residents, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced on Thursday it would start reducing the amount of freshwater flowing from Lake Okeechobee.

PHOTO: A dead walking catfish lays on the shore with algae along Sewell's Point, Fla. on the St. Lucie River under an Ocean Boulevard bridge on June 27, 2016.
A dead walking catfish lays on the shore with algae along Sewell's Point, Fla. on the St. Lucie River under an Ocean Boulevard bridge on June 27, 2016. The Martin County Commission decided at an emergency meeting Tuesday to ask state and federal authorities to declare a disaster where blue-green algae has closed beaches.
Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post/AP Photo

Meanwhile, officials said they are now investigating if the toxic algae-infested waters are to blame for some reported infection. Some residents complained of headaches, respiratory issues and even rashes since the algae arrived.

People have been seen wearing masks and others told ABC News they bought air purifiers for their homes and businesses.

"I live on the water and I can’t even go out my back door. It smells vile," said Chris Palas, a mother who lives in Stuart, Florida -- one of the towns most affected by the algae.

Algae covered water at Stuart's Central Marine boat docks is thick, June 30, 2016, in Stuart, Fla.
Terry Spencer/AP Photo

Palas told ABC News that the stench has been making her whole family feel sick.

"The headaches, the sinus pressure is extreme," she said. "It is just an awful feeling. As a mom, I have a 5-year-old daughter and you just worry, how is this going to affect her long-term?"

Officials told ABC News that a clean-up plan has not been established yet, adding that they wish they had a quick solution but there isn't one.

ABC News' Ben Stein and Catherine Thorbecke contributed to this report.