PALMETTO, Fla. — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis says he has directed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to put together a plan to get the former Piney Point phosphate processing plant cleaned up and the location fully shut down.
DeSantis made the announcement Tuesday while visiting the site.
“We want this to be the last chapter of the Piney Point story. So today, I’m directing the Department of Environmental Protection to create a plan to close Piney Point," he said.
The first step toward permeant cleanup and closure will be to make sure the state is ready to take the next actions toward any necessary restoration and mitigation as quickly as possible, DeSantis said.
DeSantis said he is redirecting $15.4 million from existing appropriations at DEP to be used for innovative technology to pre-treat water at the site for nutrients. That way, if more controlled discharge is needed, potential impacts on the environment would be mitigated, DeSantis said.
DeSantis last spoke with the media at the site more than a week ago, detailing efforts crews were making to pump wastewater out of one of the gypsum stacks that had been breached. People who lived in the area were told to evacuate if the wastewater were to be released all at once.
Fears of a complete collapse of the reservoir have faded, and attention now turns to what the millions of gallons of nutrient-rich wastewater dumped into Tampa Bay will have on the environment. Recent samples of water from the bay have shown no sign of red tide, though experts worry about some of the long-term impacts.
Heavy rainfall over the weekend didn't cause any additional damage to the breached reservoir, state officials said.
The site picked up 2.8 inches of rain Sunday as round after round of thunderstorms moved through the region, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. A steel plate currently is sealing a seam that had formed, which caused the leak.
DeSantis has said water quality monitoring will continue to gauge the ecological impacts of the wastewater that was discharged into Piney Creek and ultimately Tampa Bay.
On top of the governor's initial $15.4 million commitment, Manatee County says Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson is working with DeSantis and DEP employees to develop an appropriations request of $100 million for state lawmakers to consider.
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