© 2023 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Phosphate processing plants in the greater Tampa Bay region have caused some of Florida's worst environmental disasters. Accidents like the spill at the former Piney Point plant fill the history books in Florida.

Deep Injection Well Approved For Piney Point As Residents Worry About Well Water

An aerial image shows the Piney Point processing plant, lower right, and Tampa Bay to the left.
Google Maps
An aerial image shows the Piney Point processing plant, lower right, and Tampa Bay to the left.

One commissioner said the well is a better option than having millions more gallons of wastewater dumped into Tampa Bay.

Manatee County commissioners have approved construction of a deep injection well to dispose of wastewater from the closed Piney Point fertilizer plant. But nearby neighbors are worried about the possible effect on their wells.

The $9.3 million contract was approved Tuesday by a 6 to 1 vote, over objections that it could contaminate underground water supplies.

Even though discharges to Tampa Bay have ended, there are still 190 million gallons of wastewater in the phosphate retention pond.

Commissioner Misty Servia supported the move, even though she has reservations about the possible effects on nearby residents who rely on well water. She says it's better than having millions more gallons dumped into pristine areas of Tampa Bay.

"I support today's action. My intent was for it to never go back in Bishop's Harbor again," she said during the commission meeting. "Well, we'll see what happens with all this, but with all the information that's given to us by staff and by (the state Department of Environmental Protection) over the last four years, I think this is, to me, the best option that's being given. And we need to get this closed."

Skye Grundy asked the county to supply emergency water to people who use wells near the Piney Point site. She's one of the closest residents living near the plant, where millions of gallons have seeped underground.

"No one has tested my well water. Or anybody on my street. Or anybody in my community," she told commissioners. "We pay for private well testing, and for the tests that we'll have to do now, it will be in the thousands of dollars. And if you got a water treatment system, it will be thousands of dollars."

Commissioner James Satcher then motioned that the county look into doing well testing in the area around the closed phosphate plant.

"We're not the ones living there, drinking that water. And if we were, we'd want to get it tested," he said. "And it shouldn't be thousands of dollars per resident to get their well tested, when they didn't create this issue."

This would become the first deep injection well used to dispose of process water from a phosphate plant.

“I have never been in favor of a deep water injection well. I’m still not," Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said. "But I think it is fair to say at this point that we don’t have a choice. We have got to get Piney Point closed down as quickly as possible.”

The state Department of Environmental Protection has said discharges into Tampa Bay have ended. Click here for their latest update.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
WUSF 89.7 depends on donors for the funding it takes to provide you the most trusted source of news and information here in town, across our state, and around the world. Support WUSF now by giving monthly, or make a one-time donation online.