Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in Martin and St. Lucie Counties due to a thick green algae bloom choking the area's waterways.
"I live on the water and I can’t even go out by back door. It smells vile," Chris Palas, who lives in Stuart, Florida, told ABC News today, "It is just horrible. It is just horrendous. It looks like pea soup. It is just not at the surface. It is deep."
"The health department put out signs on the beach saying there is no swimming," Palas said, "And clearly from the smell, it has got to be toxic, and who knows how it is going to affect us long-term."
Palas said the stench makes her whole family feel sick. "The headaches, the sinus pressure is extreme. 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?"
Gov. Scott issued an executive order on Wednesday to address the algae problem, saying in a statement, “Florida’s waterways, wildlife and families have been severely impacted by the inaction and negligence of the federal government not making the needed repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike and Florida can no longer afford to wait."
Scott added that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers "continues to discharge millions of gallons of water into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries resulting in the growth of blue-green algae," and blamed the Obama administration's inaction.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Jacksonville announced it would reduce the amount of freshwater flowing from Lake Okeechobee starting today.
“It has been a challenging year for south Florida,” Col. Jason Kirk, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District Commander, said in a statement on Thursday. “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. However, after visiting with local elected officials in Martin County yesterday and viewing the algae first hand, we felt compelled to take action, even though we need to remain vigilant in managing the level of Lake Okeechobee.”
Palas and her husband filmed a manatee, covered in the green muck and struggling to breath, swimming next to the dock in their backyard. The video garnered nearly 1 million views on Facebook and over 25,000 shares, and depicts the environmental impact of the algae bloom.
Palas said the incident broke her heart. "I was really sad, it was awful."
"My husband said, 'Oh my gosh, we have got to get some water and help it,' so he went to grab his hose and within seconds the manatee just came right up to the hose," Palas explained. "All this green algae was coming out of his nostrils."
"My daughter, a 5-year-old, just said, 'I think he’s going to die,'" Palas said. "My daughter went to bed crying. You can’t help but wonder what is going to happen long-term to these animals."