Attention Weather Channel: Lake Okeechobee is not toxic

OKEECHOBEE — Last week the Weather Channel posted an online video called “Toxic Lake: The Untold Story of Lake Okeechobee.”

Like many people in the Big Lake area, the false, derogatory and unfair allegations in the video made it difficult for me to watch.

The first time, I had to turn it off because I was fuming. When I calmed down, I tried again, this time taking notes. I had to watch the video four times to make sure I had the quotes right and had not missed anything.

That’s 40 minutes of my life I won’t get back.

I want anyone who reads this to be perfectly clear about something: Lake Okeechobee is not toxic.

Can you drink the water from Lake Okeechobee?

Katrina Elsken, an advocate for Lake Okeechobee, was named Farm Bureau News Person of the Year for 2016 on October 27. Ms. Elsken is editor and publisher of the Okeechobee News and has been reporting on the Okeechobee watershed for 30 years.

Yes. We do drink the water.

I’m not afraid of drinking the water.

Of course before people drink it, the water has to be filtered and treated, just as any surface water has to be filtered and treated for human consumption.

But it’s not toxic or polluted.

In Okeechobee, we joke about how it tastes sometimes. But the water is regularly tested to make sure it meets the health and safety standards.

School children drink it from the water fountains.

The lake water is NOT toxic and we do NOT appreciate the Weather Channel spreading a malicious lie about our water supply.

The Okeechobee Utility Authority (OUA) surface water plant, with a capacity of 5 million gallons, is located on S.R. 78 West and pumps water from Lake Okeechobee. OUA also has a groundwater plant, with capacity of 1 million gallons a day, which is located on N.E. 12th Street and pumps water from shallow wells.

Current average OUA production for potable drinking water is just over 2 million gallons per day with a maximum day production over 3 million gallons per day.

So attention people from the coast — the good people of Okeechobee are doing all we can to minimize lake water releases including drinking the water ourselves!

Would I swim in Lake Okeechobee?

No, I would not.

That has nothing to do with the water quality.  I just happen to have a healthy fear of alligators.

Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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