Apr 8, 2021 - News

Piney Point owners may dodge accountability for Tampa Bay cleanup

The Sunshine Skyway bridge from Bishop Harbor at Terra Ceia Preserve, just south of where polluted water is being discharged from the old Piney Point phosphate plant. Photo: Ben Montgomery/Axios

The head of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection has vowed repeatedly to hold the owner of the leaking Piney Point phosphate plant "accountable" for pollution that threatens to crush marine life in Tampa Bay and hurt local tourism.

Yes, but: That's easier said than done.

The big picture: Owner HRK Holdings went bankrupt after a massive spill in 2011, the Bradenton Herald reports, and has been saying it can't pay the millions needed for that cleanup.

  • And there's been no word from HRK’s principal owner: William "Mickey" F. Harley III, a Wall Street executive and former hedge fund manager with a history of snapping up bankrupt or struggling companies, according to the Herald.

The backdrop: Harley's HRK Holdings bought the former phosphate mine in 2006 for $4.3 million solely to store dredging disposal from Port Manatee.

The bottom line: "I'd love to string them up, but the reality of the situation is they have one shell company after another. These guys are rich and smart and they know what they’re doing," said Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge.

This story first appeared in the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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