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Lake Okeechobee Water Pollution Curbed

Tougher pollution standards for farms, ranches near Lake Okeechobee

Victory

Water quality in Lake Okeechobee, Florida, has long suffered from pollution from industrial dairy farms and ranches. Waste water -- filled with phosphorus, a by-product of fertilizers and animal waste produced by these businesses -- drained into the lake, clouding the water, causing algae blooms, and decreasing the oxygen level necessary for fish to survive. Many scientists and conservationists have declared that phosphorous levels are so high, Lake Okeechobee is possibly facing extinction. If government regulators and surrounding industries do not act soon to reduce pollution, the lake could likely become a wasteland devoid of any fish or wildlife so important to Florida's natural heritage

In 2003, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) proposed limits to the phosphorus level for nine tributaries to the lake. However, these limits still allowed 25 tons of phosphorus to be deposited into the lake.

Earthjustice, representing the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, and Save Our Creeks, sued the DEP to challenge the proposed limits.

In March 2005, Judge David M. Maloney issued a ruling in Tallahassee, stating that the DEP used a flawed process to develop its proposed phosphorus limits, and instructing the DEP to develop new pollution limits, using "protective, science-based, stringent" standards.

Office:  Florida
Program Area:  Healthy Communities
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