Apr 14, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Florida to close Piney Point wastewater reservoir after averting disaster

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaking at a press conference in Miami on April 8.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaking at a press conference in Miami on April 8. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Tuesday he directed the state's Department of Environmental Protection to develop a plan to permanently close the wastewater reservoir at Piney Point phosphate plant that recently threatened to cause a catastrophic environmental disaster, according to AP.

Why it matters: The governor said that $15.4 million in agency funds will be used to treat the water, which contains waste from the phosphate production that can cause algae blooms and fish kills and eventually impact the food chain if introduced into the environment in large amounts.

Context: A series of worsening breaches was discovered in late March in the huge holding pool, setting off evacuation orders for more than 300 homes, businesses and farms in the area.

  • Emergency management officials were able to avoid a full-on collapse of the reservoir by pumping the water from the pond into Tampa Bay to relieve pressure on the breaches and reinforcing the outside of the pond to try to slow seepage.

What they're saying: “We want this to be the last chapter of the Piney Point story,” DeSantis said Tuesday, according to AP.

The big picture: Noah Valenstein, secretary of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection, said the state plans sue HRK Holdings, the company that bought the Piney Point property in 2006 and promised a cleanup.

  • Yes, but: HRK Holdings went bankrupt after another spill in 2011 and has said it can't pay the millions needed for the previous cleanup, let alone a lawsuit from the state.
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