Minor amounts of Red Tide lingering in samples around lower Tampa Bay

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A water sample earlier this month indicated a “bloom concentration” of Red Tide roughly 6 miles northwest of Egmont Key, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, but more recent monitoring nearer to Tampa Bay has not turned up such high levels.

The state reported the result late Friday as a “medium concentration” of Red Tide off of Hillsborough County. An agency spokeswoman provided the exact coordinates and said the sample was pulled May 5.

No fish kills or breathing trouble have been reported in recent days around Tampa Bay, according to the Commission.

A medium concentration of the organism in Red Tide, the Commission says, may cause people to suffer respiratory irritation, as well as fish kills and shellfish harvesting closures. The agency conducts routine monitoring and a sample shows conditions at one point.

Scientists have been on high alert for any suggestion of a harmful algal bloom since wastewater was pumped into the bay last month from a leaking pond at the old Piney Point phosphate plant near Port Manatee.

The state has previously reported very low to low concentrations of Red Tide off Manatee County, specifically in the area of Anna Maria Island. Those reports continued this week, with a very low concentration near Pinellas, off Fort De Soto, according to the Commission’s website. Very low concentrations fall below bloom levels.

Red Tide has drifted around counties south of Tampa Bay for months.

Blooms of the toxic algae are naturally occurring. Researchers have said the organism in Red Tide would not turn up here simply because of the Piney Point discharges, but the wastewater is rich in nutrients — particularly nitrogen — which they fear could help fuel algae growth.