Lake Okeechobee Phosphorus levels climb.

CLEWISTON, FL. (April 12, 2001) -- Phosphorus levels in Lake Okeechobee are still four times higher than state officials say is healthy for the lake. Recent pumping of canals and farm runoff into the lake added more algae-producing phosphorus to the lake says water managers, but are below levels environmentalist say could cloud the lake with algae blooms, killing lake bottom lake bottom plants.

The water management district pumped 3.2 billion gallons of rain runoff into the lake to help build up a supply of water during the drought.

"Pumping tons of phosphorus into a lake that's already near collapse is never a good practice," said Audubon of Florida President Stuart Strahl.

Water sampled during the pumping contained from 113 to 175 parts per billion phosphorus near Belle Glade, and from 56 to 60 parts per billion near South Bay, the district said.

District researcher Alan Steinman had said that, based on past pumping, water pumped into the lake could contain as much as 400 parts per billion phosphorus and over time kill as many as 8,800 acres of newly sprouted bottom plants near the lake's south end. District scientists have said the phosphorus level in the lake should be around 40 parts per billion.