Lake Okeechobee Backpumping, Florida


Regional Office / Program

Case Overview

Millions of gallons of polluted water coming off of half a million acres of sugar cane fields and cities are pumped into Lake Okeechobee by the South Florida Water Management District. The discharge contaminates drinking water supplies and fertilizes toxic blue-green algae blooms. Earthjustice filed suit demanding the district obtain Clean Water Act permits for its discharges and comply with water quality standards in the lake. 

On December 11, 2006, a federal district judge in Miami ruled that the district must comply with the Clean Water Act. And on Jun 15, 2007, a federal court issued an injunction requiring the South Florida Water Management District to apply for pollution permits to engage in pumping dirty water into the lake.

As a result of our victory in court, one of the larger landowners near Lake Okeechobee, U.S. Sugar — which farming operations resulted in polluted water being pumped back into Lake Okeechobee — negotiated with the state of Florida to sell its 185,000 acres of lands and shut down the sugar growing and processing operations. With large-scale sugar processing phased out, once again the natural flow of water will return and help to restore the Everglades. 

Case Updates

When it comes to green slime, the Florida state legislature has missed a critical point.
December 1, 2016 Article

Clean Lake Okeechobee's Water, Don’t Move it Around

When it comes to addressing the green slime issue, the Florida state legislature has missed a critical point.

Lake Okeechobee.
April 9, 2014 Article

Polluting of Lake Okeechobee Must End, Court Rules

Backpumping by industrial agricultural operations is allowing pollutant-laden waters into drinking water sources.

March 28, 2014 Press Release

Pumping Polluted Water Into Lake Okeechobee Must Stop, Judge Rules

Earthjustice wins 11-year legal water pollution battle