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Environment

State Hands Control Of Piney Point Back To Its Troubled Owners

PineyPoint phosphogypsum stack and retention pond
Sarah Gledhill
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In April, officials warned of an "imminent collapse" of a retention pond at the former phosphate plant causing evacuations of the neighborhoods near Piney Point.

An emergency order issued in April by Florida's Department of Environmental Protection expired this week.

The state has returned management of the former Piney Point phosphate plant in Manatee County back to its owner. The move comes two months after a massive toxic spill into the waters of Tampa Bay.

An emergency order issued in April by Florida's Department of Environmental Protection expired this week. A spokesperson for the agency told WUSF that HRK Holdings is back in charge, and is legally obligated to avoid another "potential catastrophic failure of the gypstack system."

The DEP also informed the company that while the risk has been minimized at this time, HRK Holdings must provide sufficient storage capacity to treat wastewater and to have a plan to safely manage water levels ahead of Florida's rainy season.

“As a next step, HRK is required to set up a meeting to discuss their water management plans,” the agency said.

“With our stringent regulatory oversight of the facility, the department will review these plans to make sure they meet all regulatory requirements. Should HRK not be able to fulfill their obligations, the department is prepared to take immediate action, as authorized by law, to abate any emergency situations and to ensure the facility is properly managed and operated.”

Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes acknowledged that HRK Holdings is back in control, but he said time will tell if HRK is able to meet their responsibility. He added "history has shown they are not."

In April, Manatee commissioners approved plans to construct a deep injection well at the closed fertilizer plant to get rid of remaining wastewater.

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