Lake Apopka cleanup project could be money-maker



ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - An experiment to clean decades of muck out of Lake Apopka could actually pay back some money. Some researchers said the project could pay for half of the costs of cleaning up the lake.

Orange County Commissioner Fred Brummer said the project is a beautiful sight.

"These kinds of advances make me giggle, it's the kind of thing where you say yes, it's a success, we need to keep after it," said Brummer.

Brummer said his longtime mission is to see Lake Apopka once again become a useable lake.

"You can't find this kind of a resource anywhere. God gives you this one time. We messed it up, now we've got to fix it," said Brummer.

"See any boats? Might as well declare it a wilderness area," said Dr. Dan Canfield, a lake management specialist from the University of Florida.

Canfield is the mastermind behind the project.

"We, the state, has spent a quarter billion to a half billion dollars on restoring up this lake, and you've got nothing," said Canfield.

Canfield said if the new process works, the lake could once again be a vibrant bass fishery with five years and $25 million.

The problem at Lake Apopka, one of the largest lakes in Florida, is that it is filled with a thick, smelly, soupy muck.

In previous attempts to clean the lake, the muck is spread across acres of land.

The new method spins the mucky water through a machine that spits the muck out as odorless, crumbly dirt that can then be turned into potting soil. And the water comes out clean.   

"If we can create the access and the boat basin and the habitat for plants, you can eventually turn this lake around," said Canfield.

"Will this project work? I'm hoping. I'm praying," said Brummer.

Sen. Alan Hays and state Rep. Brian Nelson and secured $1.4 million for the project.

Right now researchers are trying to figure out how fast the potting soil can be created and how much it could sell for.