University of Central Florida graduating senior, Victoria Burello, completed her class project on the history of Lake Apopka, to raise awareness about the issue. As she writes:
" In my freshman year, my Women's Studies course taught me about the local history of Apopka, and of the complicated history of the farmworkers' suffering. Now in my senior year, I am tasked with making small documentary shorts about the Central Florida community, and how these local issues have large scale implications."
Lake Apopka today is the most polluted large lake in the state. But the region had a long history before this land became what is now called Florida. The lake and the vast lands surrounding it once served the Timucua and Seminole Indian tribes, where fish and game could be found in abundance.
In the days of colonial expansion, Lake Apopka became an excellent fishing spot for not only the tribes, but also for the white settlers who had come and occupied the territories, displacing the indigenous peoples.
Moving to more recent times, in the 1960s, what had once been a flourishing lake known worldwide for its magnificent bass fishing, started a long decline that led to the Lake Apopka eventually becoming a "dead lake." The fertilizer and pesticide run-off from the muck farms caused massive algae blooms that led to a collapse of the lake's ecosystem.
Exacerbating the environmental contamination of the lake was the toxic chemical spill by the Tower Chemical Company, which had improperly disposed of the harmful pesticide, DDE (
Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethyle ne). This harmful chemical is not only a pesticide but an endocrine disrupting chemical- that has been linked to cancer, birth defects, and other developmental disorders.
Victoria recounts her experience with learning about Lake Apopka. You can watch her video and visit her website to learn more about the history of Lake Apopka and the farmworkers who worked the vegetable farms on the lake.