State to close Piney Point after phosphate mine leak
MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. – The state is going to shut down Piney Point after the phosphate mine leaked last week, Gov. DeSantis announced at a news conference on Tuesday.
“We want this to be the last chapter of the Piney Point story,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis announced that he is redirecting $15.4 million from existing appropriations at DEP to be used for technologies to pretreat water at the site for nutrients. In the event that more discharges are needed as the plant shuts down, pretreating the water would help reduce harmful algal blooms and fish kills, he said. He further said the closure would be permanent.
The governor also said the DEP will use data collected at the site to investigate and hold the site’s owner — HRK Holdings —accountable.
“We’re committed on state level to working with Manatee County and using our resources to deliver a permanent solution,” he said.
Senator Wilton Simpson, who was also in attendance, said by the end of the year, he is hoping for a fully funded plan. The state needs $100 million in initial funding, he said.
Crews worked last week to prevent the collapse of a large wastewater pond, and the governor declared a state of emergency for the surrounding area. The reservoir, and two others nearby, sit in stacks of phosphogypsum, a solid radioactive byproduct from manufacturing fertilizer from an old phosphate plant that is no longer in operation.
At one point Manatee County officials said a breach at the old phosphate plant reservoir had the potential to gush out 340 million gallons of water in a matter of minutes, risking a 20-foot-high (about 6.1-meter-high) wall of water.
Authorities closed off portions of U.S. Highway 41 and ordered evacuations of 316 homes. Some families were placed in local hotels.
The evacuation order was lifted on April 7, as crews were able to mitigate the leak before greater disaster struck.
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