Florida, of course, is known for its vast coastline and scenic beaches. However, recent visitors to many of the state's beaches have seen something that's not so pleasant to look at.
Several beaches along Florida's coast have become overrun with something resembling green slime. Gabriella Ferrero, a spokesperson for Martin County, said that, "I would describe them as guacamole-thick. And it stinks."
The slime is actually the result of expansive algae blooms from the St. Lucie River. And it's gotten so bad that Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in several counties along the Atlantic coast.
The problem started when Lake Okeechobee received high levels of toxins after a year of heavy rainfall. The lake began to overflow, which led the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to run the excess water into rivers along the coast. Letting the lake continue to overflow would have likely led to major flooding.
But when the water was let into the rivers, it released nutrients and lowered the water's salinity. Both of those things led to the abundance of slimy algae.
The algae is more than just a smelly nuisance. It's causing a shortage of oxygen in the water, which is putting birds, fish and manatees at risk.
The toxic algae can also cause rashes or hay fever if touched or inhaled by humans. Scientists have also discovered that a toxin in blue-green algae may trigger Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease.
Governor Scott is attempting to solve the algae problem with directives such as finding other areas to divert the water coming from Lake Okeechobee. The St. Lucie River had been getting a billion gallons of water from the lake every day. The plan is to take 20 billion gallons from the lake and store it in the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes away from the river.
In the meantime, the slime persists. "People have questions," said Florida Oceanographic Society director Mark Perry. "'Is it safe to go to the beaches?' 'Is the water near my house safe?' The state needs to answer [these questions] and hasn't."