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Environmental Protection watches water quality after Piney Point wastewater releases

Hillsborough and Pinellas workers are taking samples of the water from Tampa Bay to check for changes following the emergency releases.

TAMPA, Fla. — It could be weeks or even months until we understand the environmental impact of the release of millions of gallons of wastewater from Piney Point in Tampa Bay. It has been nearly a week since crews were able to patch and seal the leak at the former phosphate plant.

Hillsborough and Pinellas Environmental Protection crews have been stepping up to help Manatee County monitor the water quality following those releases earlier this month. 

They've found there's no indication the wastewater is moving further north into the Bay. But the pH level on the south end is slightly below normal at 5.5 where it should be at an 8. They're also seeing increased plankton activity.

Tom Ash, the Assistant Director of Hillsborough’s Water Division told the Environment Protection Commission Thursday that the effects from events like the wastewater release tend to lag. 

“We're worried about the nutrients, particularly the nitrogen, and its possible response biologically in the long-term,” Ash said.

The Hillsborough EPC told staff they're interested in learning more about the risks from other stacks in the area, assessing the vulnerability, and how they would respond to an emergency.

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