$7M water cleaning facility continues to sit idle in Lake County

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Not far from Astatula in Lake County, there's a $7 million taxpayer-funded facility that hasn't operated for nearly 18 months.

The nutrient reduction facility takes mucky water from Lake Apopka, cleans it and then dumps it into Lake Beauclair helping to clean all the lakes in the Harris chain but it hasn't cleaned a drop of water since April 2012.

Channel 9 learned the St. Johns River Water Management District stopped the flow of water out of Lake Apopka because the lower the lake gets, the dirtier it gets. The lake level is already down a foot-and-a-half and lowering it more could stir up the muck, officials said.

"It's disappointing more than anything else," said John Harris of the Lake County Water Authority.

"We could have treated up to 7 1/2 billion gallons, which is almost 11,000 Olympic-size swimming pools," said Mike Perry of the Lake County Water Authority.

"That's their perspective. That's still their responsibility and still their authority. Until that changes, we're sort of at their mercy," said Perry.

But even though the plant sits idle, Lake County officials insist it has not been a waste of taxpayer money.

"No. It's going to be used," said Harris. "It's just to the point we can't use it at the moment."

As Florida enters the dry season, it's likely the plant will remain closed for now.