From: Associated Press
Published July 9, 2007 12:00 AM

Polluted Muck Taken from Florida's Lake Okeechobee Prompts Fears on Land

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Scientists have found elevated levels of arsenic and other pesticides in thousands of truckloads of muck scooped from the bottom of Lake Okeechobee.


State water and wildlife managers are taking advantage of a drought by removing life-choking muck from the 730-square-mile lake, Florida's largest. Its removal over several months will return the bottom to a more natural sandy base and create clearer water and better habitat for plants and wildlife.


But the plan could create new pollution headaches on shore.


Arsenic levels on the northern part of the lake bed were as much as four times the limit for residential land, according to new tests from the South Florida Water Management District.


The Sun-Sentinel conducted independent tests that found even higher levels, making the muck too polluted for use on agricultural or commercial lands, the newspaper reported Sunday. The district declined to comment on the independent tests.


"We are evaluating how and where we dispose of it ... so we don't create a new problem someplace else," said Chip Merriam, the district's deputy executive director.


Options include using the muck as the base for nearby lakeside parking lots.


It has taken about six weeks to scrape the top 2 feet of muck from the lake. It amounted to about 1.9 million cubic yards -- enough to fill roughly 950 backyard swimming pools.


Source: Associated Press


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