After millions spent, Lake Apopka still filthy

The state government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up Central Florida's largest lake, and it simply isn't working. Since the 1990s, the state has been buying up the old farms that surround Lake Apopka to stop all of the fertilizer discharge into the lake.  Allied Group CEO Jay Barfield says what has happened since those purchases has just not helped.

"It's four times over normal what they call 'eutrophic' lakes, and eutrophic is just a fancy name to mean it's imperiled, so nitrates is Lake Apopka's biggest problem. Phosphorus is a close second."

The problem in Lake Apopka is muck, sometimes as much as 15 feet of in just sitting on the bottom completely devoid of oxygen. Most of the spending on Lake Apopka came before State Senator Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, took office.

"I think the people at that time tried what they thought would be an acceptable method of restoring the lake, and it just turned out that it has taken far, far longer and a whole lot more money than they ever imagined it would."

The strategy for most of the last 15 years has been to take all of the nasty things in the water, mostly nitrates and phosphates and just sink it to the bottom. We asked Jay Barfield if that was a good idea?

"No it ends up being organics, which ends up being muck."

The result is pea green water, and the return of some birds. Lake Apopka used to be the bass fishing capital of the world though. Today, while people do eat fish from the lake, Barfield says he would not, and Senator Hays says he would only eat the fish in small quantities. Just this year, the state is trying a new approach, one that both men believe is promising. That effort is spearheaded by Jay Barfield and Allied Group. They are now taking small, square oxygen diffusers and sinking them to the bottom of Lake Apopka. Oxygen is being pumped directly into the water.