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Lake Okechobee

WQCS

Leaking septic tanks may be causing prolonged algae blooms like the one currently killing fish and wildlife near Lake Okeechobee.

Coffee-colored water gurgles near the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam. It flows down the Caloosahatchee River, roughly 30 miles from Fort Myers.

As a noxious algae bloom fouls beaches on Florida's Atlantic coast, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is preparing to reduce the flow of water from Lake Okeechobee.

South of Florida's Lake Okeechobee, hundreds of thousands of acres of sugar cane thrive in the heart of one of the world's largest wetlands. The Everglades stretches from the tip of the peninsula to central Florida, north of Lake Okeechobee.

"The Everglades actually begins at Shingle Creek, outside of Orlando," says Jonathan Ullman of the Sierra Club.

That's nearly 200 miles north of the agricultural land that Ullman and other environmentalists say is crucial to state and federal efforts to restore the wetlands area to a healthy ecosystem.