By: Katrina Elsken, Okeechobee News
OKEECHOBEE — As the summer heat brings the threat of algae blooms on Lake Okeechobee, the Okeechobee Utility Authority (OUA) is ready with their own testing, water treatment and backup plans.
OUA pumps about 2.5 million gallons a day from Lake Okeechobee, explained OUA Executive Director John Hayford. The water pumps at the Clif Betts, Jr. Lakeside Recreation Area (Lock 7) draw water from pipes that run out about 100 ft. from shore.
OUA staffers watch the water intake areas for any sign of algal blooms, he said. They also watch for signs of algae in the water by sight and smell and periodically test for microcystins.
Mr. Hayford said microcystin tests are not among the water quality tests required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The tests are an added precaution.
Mr. Hayford said South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection also check the lake for algal blooms and keep them updated on any problems.
So far, no algae has been reported near the water intake and tests have not shown any problems, he said.
If toxins were to be detected, he explained, OUA would switch to their backup plan, pumping water from the Rim Canal and from wells. OUA prefers to use surface water, he explained, because the well water is “hard water” and customers do not like it, as it leaves spots on surfaces and causes equipment like hot water heaters to wear out more quickly.
In addition, the ground well pumps can only provide 1 million gallons of water per day, which is less than half of the current demand…