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Environment

Piney Point Efforts Focus On Keeping Contaminated Water Out Of Tampa Bay

Overall view of Piney Point
Manatee County Public Safety
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Officials say they're receiving help from Mosaic to haul hundreds of thousands of gallons of water from the reservoir to another site.

Manatee County officials are working on creative ways to keep contaminated water from a phosphate reservoir at Piney Point from flowing directly into Tampa Bay.

Acting County Administrator Scott Hopes updated commissioners on Tuesday about efforts to use tanker trucks, barges, additional storage and reverse osmosis to make sure the impact to the bay were held to a minimum.

Some of the most contaminated water, which is leaking out of the bottom of the reservoir thorough a breach in the earthen dam, is being diverted into a 35-million-gallon lined pond that is on site.

Water is being pumped into that pond at a rate of about 70,000 gallons per day, but it is capable of handling much more, Hopes said.

“So everything that's coming out of the bottom is staying on the site,” Hopes said. “That is not going into the bay. What is going into the bay is principally the saltwater and the brackish water that was removed from the bay and being stored.”

Along with storing waste from the phosphate mine, the leaking reservoir had been used to hold water and material from a dredging project in Tampa Bay.

Another phosphate company is also helping the county keep contaminated water from flowing into the bay, Hopes said.

Mosaic, which is based in Tampa but largely operates out of Polk County, is providing tanker trucks to haul hundreds of thousands of gallons from the reservoir to another site where it is being processed.

"The water that is being pumped into the Mosaic tank trucks is what you would consider the water that had the most dissolved solids in it," Hopes said.

Mosaic also offered to bring barges and tanker ships into Port Manatee that could hold millions of gallons, Hopes said.

“The port worked through engineering how they would get the water and bypass the water that is in the canal that is being discharged into the port to be able to pump that water into the barges and the tankers,” Hopes said.

The county and state are working through regulatory issues with that plan, he said.

The county is also working with a company in Wyoming on a proposal to provide temporary holding tanks.

The portable tanks are capable of holding 150 million gallons on the Piney Point site, Hopes said.

"I think we're going to see over the course of the next few days a decrease of what's going into the bay," he said. "The goal is to keep as much of this on site as possible."

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has also signed a contract to treat the water with reverse osmosis on site.

"Reverse osmosis is a big scale," Hopes said. "You can bring it all the way down to almost distilled drinking water quality or you can say look we want reverse osmosis to take it to this point so that it matches the water in the bay."

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