May 25, 2021 - News

Piney Point research: Polluted water has had minimal impact so far

Water samples sit atop a table

Since April 7, the USF research team has collected water samples, surface sediments and fish from Tampa Bay and Port Manatee. Credit: USF

USF College of Marine Science researchers who have been studying the old Piney Point phosphate plant wastewater discharges say the effects were localized, not widespread.

Why it matters: After emergency crews pumped millions of gallons of polluted water from the retired plant's holding pond, which had sprung a leak and threatened to flood nearby homes, many were concerned about the effects on plants and animals in the Tampa Bay ecosystem.

But, but, but: Researchers found that "concentrations of nutrients have declined over time and are now more typical of those in the historical record for this part of Tampa Bay," the university announced Monday.

  • Model results show that the concentrations of nutrients within the discharged water have been diluted at least 1,000-fold since the initial release.
  • A bloom of single-celled microalgae called phytoplankton that grew to about 25 square kilometers around Port Manatee has dissipated and chlorophyll concentrations are within the normal range for this time of year.

What's next: Researchers still wonder about longer-term impacts of the discharges and the nutrient cycling in response to a rapid influx of wastewater and will continue to monitor the situation.


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