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DEP reports first signs of trouble related to Piney Point wastewater discharge

The state agency reported “bloom conditions” and trace levels of cyanotoxins in previous discharge areas.

PALMETTO, Fla. — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection released results perhaps signaling the first signs of trouble related to a week-long discharge of nitrogen-rich wastewater from the former Piney Point phosphate site in Manatee County.

In numbers released late Friday, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection reports the observation of “bloom conditions” in areas where the previous discharges took place.

The state reports water sample tests are showing trace levels of cyanotoxins at levels around 0.34 parts per billion.

Justin Bloom, founder of the Suncoast Water Keeper Group says the findings are not what would be considered a harmful algae bloom or red tide, because no harmful effects have yet been observed.   

Instead, he said cyanotoxins are blue-green algae that are naturally occurring in the water but are now using the added nitrogen in the water to multiply.  

Bloom said Friday this is likely just a sign of things to come. “I have no doubt we’ll see fish kills and other negative impacts.   We’ll have to wait to see how all of this plays out in the coming weeks.”

DEP said water samples from various locations around the previous discharge site, Port Manatee and out into Tampa Bay will continue daily with the results posted online.

The agency says it will continue to monitor any future environmental impacts.

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