Aug 18, 2021 - News

Tampa Bay's rainfall could force another Piney Point wastewater dump

The former Piney Point phosphate plant could overflow due to recent heavy rainfall. Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images

More polluted water from the old Piney Point phosphate plant could be dumped into Tampa Bay if our heavy rainfall continues. The clock is ticking.

State of play: We've had 23 inches of rain since June, which added about 170 million gallons of water to the same polluted retaining pond that was drained earlier this year to prevent a massive leak.

  • The pond can only hold about 50 million more gallons of water before another devastating spill.
  • Flashback: The state approved the release of 215 million gallons of contaminated water into Tampa Bay earlier this year to prevent a giant leak that might’ve flooded neighborhoods.

Why it matters: Scientists suspect that the release of Piney Point's nutrient-rich wastewater may have contributed to this summer’s red tide, which has caused remarkable fish kills around Pinellas County.

What's next: The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has asked a judge for an emergency hearing to appoint another operator to take control of the site, the Bradenton Herald reports.

  • The current owner — HRK Holdings — is "incapable" of lawfully operating the facility, the state's legal filing says.
  • The state believes "irreparable harm is likely to occur" if HRK continues to try to manage the environmental disaster.

The bottom line: "The potential for overtopping of the compartments into the surrounding areas ... poses an imminent threat to public health and safety, and the environment," the DEP said in a press release.


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