LAKELAND (FOX 13) - State and federal officials have a warning for Lakeland: Clean up your heavily-polluted lakes or pay hefty fines.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) say five of Lakeland's most popular lakes are badly polluted, including Lake Hollingsworth. Lakes Parker, Bonnie, Hunter and Crystal are also on the critical list.
But city spokesman Kevin Cook says the city doesn't have the money to clean the lakes up. Commissioners have kicked around the idea of raising storm water fees to pay for for the cleanup, but no final decision has been made.
"We just don't know when that time will come, or what those fines will be," city spokesman Kevin Cook told FOX 13.
The pollution comes from runoff from a variety of sources: lawn fertilizer, oil from cars, garbage, and anything else that ends up going into a sewer, which drains into the city's lakes.
"It fuels algae blooms," said Laurie Smith, who heads the city's Department of Lakes and Storm Water. "Algae blooms means the fish can't breath, which leads to fish kills and loss of your aquatic vegetation."
Lakeland officials say they have been trying to reduce runoff by installing pollution control devices around water that goes into lakes, as well as launching a public service campaign. The measures appear to have been too little, too late for the standards of the EPA and DEP.