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Environment
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.

An injection well at Piney Point is given the OK by state environmental regulators

Photo of Piney_Point_gypstack
Center for Biological Diversity
State environmental regulators issued a permit to allow hundreds of millions of gallons of polluted water from the stricken Piney Point plant to be pumped 3,000 feet below the surface.

The go-ahead has been given to injecting polluted water from the troubled Piney Point phosphate plant in Manatee County deep under the drinking water aquifer.

State environmental regulators Thursday issued a permit to allow hundreds of millions of gallons of polluted water from the stricken Piney Point plant to be pumped 3,000 feet below the surface.

The ruling gives the green light to a plan that would eliminate all the water in the troubled stack. A leak in the earthen berm resulted in more than 200 million gallons of polluted water flowing into Tampa Bay earlier this year. The plan would inject about 4 million gallons a day below the drinking water aquifer.

Local and state environmental officials say this is the best solution, since the earthen walls are still in danger of collapsing.

The plan was blasted by Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. She tweeted it is "beyond reckless," and "a mistake of historic proportions that will harm our environment for years to come."

Piney Point tweet.jpg

Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes said the plan is to draw down more than 600 million gallons held in three ponds atop the gypsum stack.

“We will proceed expeditiously to see this fully operational as soon as possible,” Hopes said in a written statement.

Crews are already working to prepare for the drilling of the well, which is expected to be completed on county-owned property by late 2022.

Currently, there are six other deep-well injection sites in Manatee County — one operated privately, one run by the city of Bradenton, and four under the authority of Manatee County Utilities.

“This is a proven technology,” said Manatee Director of Utilities Mike Gore. “It’s been a tried and true method to safely dispose of effluent for over three decades.”

Emergency funding from the state of Florida is helping pay for the well, with millions of dollars earmarked for the clean-up and closure. The site is eventually going to be re-lined, capped, and finally topped with soil and sod.

Displays at the public meeting on the Piney Point deep well injection plan
Steve Newborn
/
WUSF Public Media
Displays at the public meeting on the Piney Point deep well injection plan