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Pilot project aims to clean up polluted Lake Apopka

A new pilot program vows to restore polluted Lake Apopka to its original glory in just a couple of years.

The project doesn't dredge or use chemicals. The magic bullet is oxygen, and it's seeing measurable results, according to conservationist Jay Barfield, CEO of Allied Group, which is spearheading the program.

“Lake Apopka has a lot of muck,” Barfield said. “We can remove muck without dredging. We bring oxygen to the bottom.”

It’s a process called oxygenation. A square device is responsible for pumping microscopic bubbles of oxygen to breathe new life into the Lake Apopka's muck. “We’re bringing back the friendly bacteria that helps clean the lake,” Barfield said. “These worms, they’re by the thousands. They’re eating the muck. And the fish are coming here because this is where the oxygen is and where the food is.” Introducing oxygen creates a chain reaction. Gasses and chemicals that have long hurt the lake are now being forced out of the muck.

“See all those bubbles?” Barfield asked. “That’s a good sign. That’s hydrogen sulfide. We’re speeding up decay.”

You can spot all of his diffusers bubbling up to the surface. A total of 99 diffusers are spread throughout the northeast corner of the lake, making up just one percent of the 30,000-acre lake.