Niagara Bottling wants to extract more water from Floridan Aquifer

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LAKE COUNTY, Fla. —

It's been nearly five years since Niagara Bottling began pulling 484,000 gallons of water per day from the Floridan Aquifer at its plant in south Lake County.

"I certainly don't think doubling their consumption is in the public interest at all. In fact, I think it's just the opposite," said Lake County commissioner Jimmy Conner.

Conner opposes Niagara's request to take 910,000 gallons each and every day.

Some believe it will make a bad situation worse.

Locals said lake levels in the communities around the plant have been lower since Niagara started its operation. And homeowners are angry that while they are ordered to conserve water, the company can take it and sell it for profit.

The St. Johns River Water Management District issued the original permit to Niagara and has the final say on the new application.

St. Johns insists it was careful then and will be careful now.

"We looked at what the potential impacts were," Hank Largin of St. Johns River Water Management said. "At the time, the impact was very slight."

The company employs 120 people at its plant in Groveland and by many accounts has been a good corporate citizen.

Conner believes most residents haven't forgotten the controversy Niagara stirred up when it first arrived in Lake County.

"I would have to say that people living here have a long memory," Conner said.

The St. Johns governing board will hold a public meeting to vote on the new permit, which could be decided in November.