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Lake Okeechobee Backpumping, Florida


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 ID


Case Updates

April 1, 2014 | In the News: The News Press

Judge Says No to Lake O Polluting

A federal court ruled that the South Florida Water Management District violated the Clean Water Act by approving backpumping in Florida’s Lake Okeechobee, because it can harm public health and wildlife. Backpumping is the practice of taking water from a source, using it on farm lands and then discharging nutrient-laden water back into the source. “I found it bizarre that a state would fight against the people who live there.