Lake Munson is Closed Due to Toxic Algae Blooms

Lake Munson is Closed Due to Toxic Algae Blooms

On May 25, 2022, the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) issued a health alert to area residents, warning them not to go in the water at Lake Munson after finding toxic algae on the water. The warning caused Leon County to close the boat ramps and stop all fishing.

According to the FDOH, the algae produce cyanotoxins, and exposure to the algae may cause rashes, vomiting, diarrhea, and respiratory irritation. High levels can even affect the liver and nervous system.

Terry Ryan, the Tallahassee Sewage and Wakulla Basin Advocacy Group co-founder, said he was “shocked” to see the algae blooms. In addition, Ryan’s group stated that in April, they recorded the highest levels of nitrates in the lake since 2009 and is calling for Leon County to perform a series of tests to identify the source of the nitrates.

Nitrates come from human/animal waste and fertilizers and are often carried into the water supply by storm runoff. An accumulation of nitrates produces bacteria blooms which appear as the yellow and green floating algae mats.

Ultimately the poisoned mats of algae strangle wildlife in the lake and cause irritants for other animals and people.

Commissioner Jeremy Matlow with the City of Tallahassee supports Ryan’s group in finding the cause of the pollutants. Matlow also remarked that he is reaching out to the city manager to find out more information about what is occurring.

Leon County’s Department of Health will work closely with the Department of Environmental Protection to monitor the lake and the DEP will sample the water again in June. Until then, the health alert remains, and the county recommends that residents stay out of Lake Munson, keep pets away from the water, and do not drink or use the lake water.

If symptoms develop from exposure to algae-infested water, call the Florida Poison Information Center immediately (800/222-1222).

16 Responses to "Lake Munson is Closed Due to Toxic Algae Blooms"

  1. My sister just died in part from an Autoimmune liver disease, she also had an autoimmune lymphoma.
    My concern now is her daughter and granddaughter and grandson left behind at a house near a swamp feed by lake Munson.

  2. Does anyone know why they moved the algae harvester from Munson to Apalachee Regional Park so quickly after it was put into service? I’m a new fisherman and live close to Munson and was fishing there every day when they first turned on the harvester. Within about 3 months, it was gone. News articles say, “because the lake has a growing number of weeds and plants, the lake wasn’t producing algae blooms.” But as someone who visits there almost every day, I noticed algae blooms starting shortly after it was removed. What’s the deal with that? No pun intended, but seems really fishy that it was there and gone so quickly just to be moved to Apalachee Regional Park?

  3. @Max and @Hope thank you both for your kind words! The bureauracy in our beautiful town is stifling creativity and progress for everyone to build a better life.

    Re: Elberta, I understand it was the former site of Elberta Crate which used PCB, a very toxic contsminate in their work. It along with several other sites around town were the source of PCBs in Lake Munson/ good reason not to catch or eat fish there.

    Mark Heidecker continues to say the water coming into Munson is clean, yet, a random sample I took from my kayak, 4/27 was analyzed showing the highest Total Nitrogen level in 50 years! Mark does not want source testing around town.

    The County had an FDEP-FGS report on Jan 2020 recommend source testing after finding dozens of toxic sediment contaminants. Mark immediately sought another consultant to “review” the county’s report. They concluded Jan 2021 source testing is not needed. Maybe we’ll find more toxic sites to add to the over 240 officially ID’d!

    Stay tuned!

  4. @Hope:

    I’ve been lucky to work with Terry as part of the Wakulla Springs Basin Advocasy Group. I just filed to run for County Seat 2 which includes Lake Munson. Environmental protection and regulation, in particular stormwater issues are a major passion of mine and I will bring that knowledge to the table. Terry is certainly a Tally treasure!

    One big issue (out of many) is the County decided to take over all maintence of stormwater ponds, private or public, in the early 20-teens. All 700+ of them. This is an undue burden on the taxpayer and not enough cash to go around. That needs to be shifted back to the private sector. You build it, you clean it!


    You’re correct. “Lake Elberta” is not an actual lake, it’s a stormwater facility, and in 2020 the CoT applied (and received) a “conceptual” permit from FDEP to dump MORE UNTREATED stormwater into that area from the nearby student housing developments. This conceptual permit also included a “blob” over the Elberta Empire neighborhood west of Lake Bradford that covered at least 75 homes and businesses, possibly slated for condemnation and demolition for another pond. This was not approved by the City Commission nor have any residents been informed (I happened to be on a FDEP mailing list for projects in the area and let the HOA know).

    Stormwater, including these “lakes” are considered untreated under an MS4 permit and no water quality/testing is required. Like you said, there needs to be ACTIVE filtration to remove contaminants and nutrients. Building a “giant hole in the ground” does NOT clean the water and only grows toxic cyanobacteria/algae like in Lake Munson. Our group also found out the City only cleans out ponds every 20-30 years — this needs to be happening every 5 years or so. Yet, these ponds keep being built as recreational parks that in fact are often highly toxic. Not a place I want a playground!

    That development next to the train tracks? Was the original location for the large stormwater pond that ended up being placed further south took out an entire historic neighborhood and a grove of heritage oaks. Blueprint paid $966,000 for the land back in 2012-13 via threat of eminent domain… and sold it for $300,000 just a few years ago in a flawed bidding process.

    I’ve also been able to show through records requests that Leon County/Blueprint took $1.6 million in federal funding — and agreed to follow federal standards when displacing people via eminent domain. Blueprint continues to deny this, saying only local funding was used, and from my calculations shorted people nearly $1 million in relocation benefits alone. FAMU Way also demolished over 100 units of housing that should have been replaced one-for-one under federal law.

    Lots and lots and lots of issues, nearly all planning related and easily overcome, if there is the will do to the right thing.

  5. Lake Elberta is not a ‘Lake’ – it is a man-made stormwater pond that helped reduce flooding at the stadium and treats stormwater water before entering the drainage ditch headed to Lake Munson. The issues at Lake Munson require many years of natural cycles to remove the nutrients that have built up over time prior to the new stormwater regulations – the water entering Lake Munson today is very ‘clean’ compared to what it was 30 years ago — but nature needs to work through the pollution build up from our past. Check out the historical photos on TLH GIS – in 1990, ‘Lake Elberta’ was a field… not a ‘lake’.

  6. @ Terry Ryan,

    You are a Tallahassee treasure! They should run your video on a continuous loop on WCOT as it is very informative.

    Perhaps your group should hold a candidate forum. This is a very important issue that needs to move more in the forefront and having a forum would be a step forward to do this

    It would be helpful to see where the candidates stand on this and how knowledgeable they are because this is something that our elected officials need to deal with sooner rather than later.

    I believe the current leadership have neglected this issue (and that would be the mayor in the city manager in my opinion).

    Your work is very much appreciated.

  7. Don’t worry folks… Mosaic will stop the investigation when it gets too close to them. That will leave taxpayers to clean up their mess… as usual.

  8. I believe Blueprint money was used to clean up Lake Manson years ago and it should have continued… But, the mayor thinks it’s more important to put Blueprint infrastructure funds into stadium seats.

    I think providing sewage treatment should take precedence over seats. There was a gross error made by the 27 million dollar infrastructure giveaway and now a public health problem will come back to bite them. Way to go to protect the citizens and the precious students that come from all over the world to attend FSU.

  9. Thank you we should not go to the Lake Munson it is dangerous or no fishing it is bad taste or nasty Be safe and go other neat lake and can go fishing Be safe than sorry

  10. To get an historical perspective of the “Toilet Bowl of Tallahassee” history, got to our developing YouTube:
    where you’ll find its history for 1909-1975. History for 1975 forward is being researched. Also, there is our licensed drone operator’s 20 minute video of these Harmful Algal Blooms on dozens of acres across the lake, even in extremely close proximity of homes. Another video has close up pictures.

    Yes, we are concerned with the past and present residents’ health and have a separate on-going project in conjunction with FSU research students.

    We are asking the City to conduct tests to determine the source of contaminants and NOT rely on storm water ponds to filter contaminants. We have an on-going investigation as to why they have not, in spite of a Leon County 2020 report recommending source testing be conducted.

    Thanks for your interest,

  11. Go look at Lake Elberta just south of Gaines Street. The lake has turned into a trash cesspool,
    and nothing is being done. The drainage from all the new developments along Gaines Street
    being the main problem, along with an inadequate filter system. The air stinks of raw sewage
    all along the south end of the lake and the city is busy daily pumping out the sewer lines, because it can’t handle the load. Just poor planning and lack of concern about the environment.
    The problem is only going to get worse also because they are busy building additional student apartments along the eastside of the lake right next to the train tracks. Yes, I mean right next to the train tracks The Department of Environment Protection seems to be doing nothing about it either.

  12. Well, when you spill over a Million Gallons of Sewage into it over the last few Years……….

  13. This is an undeniable failure of City Manager Reese Goad and Mayor Dailey.

    These two simply are not suited to manage our water bodies which are very important.

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