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Federal Judge Says 'Backpumping' Into Lake Okeechobee Violates Clean Water Act

Janet Tarbox
Creative Commons

State water officials are considering appealing a recent court decision that ruled pumping agriculture water into public water supplies violates the Clean Water Act.

A federal court recently ruled “backpumping” nutrient-laden water from farmlands into Lake Okeechobee breaks federal water regulations.

Environmental activists have long argued the South Florida Water Management District has wrongly allowed sugar producers to send polluted water into one of state’s biggest sources for drinking water. Last week, a U.S. District Court judge agreed.

However, state water managers said the order isn’t binding and won’t have an immediate effect on their policies.

Randy Smith, a spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District, said “backpumping” is used for flood control and isn’t subject to this type of regulation.

“We view it as a health and human safety issue,” he said. “So, therefore, we do not feel this ruling applies to being able to use those pumps to protect human safety.”

Smith said attorneys are still looking at the court order and are considering an appeal. The lawsuit was launched by Earthjustice, which has long fought for stricter water standards in Florida.

Ashley Lopez is a reporter forWGCUNews. A native of Miami, she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a journalism degree.
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