Earthjustice today filed suit in response to the continued failure of the South Florida Water Management District to obtain permits for the discharge of pollutants into Lake Okeechobee. Filed on behalf of the Florida Wildlife Federation, today’s suit was triggered after the Management District was given more than sixty days written notice of violations of the Clean Water Act and failed to make any changes..
“It is just shameful that the South Florida Water Management District pumps water with oil, grease, urban runoff, and other pollutants into Lake Okeechobee, ” said David Guest, managing attorney for Earthjustice’s Tallahassee office. “The Water Management District is required under the Clean Water Act to obtain a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit before allowing the discharge of pollutants from pump stations they operate in Lake Okeechobee. However the District has never been issued a permit or even bothered to apply for one. We want the District to follow the law like everyone else has to.”
The Clean Water Act was enacted in 1972 to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s water.” Under the act, “the discharge of any pollutant by any person shall be unlawful” unless it meets the NPDES permitting requirements. South Florida Water Management District has completely ignored this law and has never applied for a permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. If allowed to continue, these illegal actions will continue to adversely affect and irreparably harm the lake and all its inhabitants. The surface water is contaminated with oil and grease and the vegetation of the lake has been altered.
Lake Okeechobee is a site for recreational use by all Floridians, including sport boating, wildlife observation, photography, personal and commercial research, and sport fishing. In March 2001, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection established a maximum pollution load for Lake Okeechobee, as a result of a Clean Water Act settlement reach between the USEPA and Earthjustice.
“Lake Okeechobee is a priceless treasure that represents some of North America’s most important fish and wildlife habitat,” said Manley Fuller, President of Florida Wildlife Federation. “We can’t let the District pollute the lake any longer. And of course the big question is ‘where was DEP’?”
“Our goal is to show the South Florida Water Management District that they can not pollute our waters and expect to get away with it. It is in blatant violation of the law and it is time we put a stop to this illegal action,” concluded Guest.