MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — Florida's Department of Environmental Protection will no longer be solely responsible for maintaining the former Piney Point phosphate processing plant.
The state's emergency order expired last week, meaning the responsibility of making sure the massive reservoir containing 200-million gallons of untreated wastewater does not once again leak is back in the hands of the property owners, HRK Holdings.
DEP sent the company a letter last Friday, June 4, explaining that while the state will continue overseeing Piney Point, it's up to HRK Holdings to manage the site and to "ensure the integrity of the stack system, and protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public and the environment."
Environmental officials say crews were able to minimize the chances of a "catastrophic" collapse of the site. However, even they recognize the facility still does not meet the state's code. And with the rainy season underway, DEP is reminding HRK that they will have to make sure the reservoirs do not flood and overflow.
It's been two months since fears of an "imminent collapse" caused panic and evacuations of the neighborhoods that surrounded Piney Point. Hundreds of millions of gallons of polluted water were sent directly into Tampa Bay creating concern for marine life and possible algae blooms.
As of Wednesday, DEP says there have been reports of fish kills near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and Port Manatee, where the discharge was sent. Environmental groups the week prior said some red tide was detected near Piney Point.
However, no official connection between the discharge and algal blooms has been made.
The future of Piney Point has already been decided. In April, Manatee County commissioners approved plans to construct a deep injection well at the site. The more than $9 million project will take the remaining wastewater left inside the plant's reservoir and plunge it 3,000 feet underground.
What other people are reading right now:
- 'Never seen or heard from...again': Tampa Bay mother of 3 still missing a year later
- Alligator attacks woman walking dog in Palm Harbor
- US likely to miss goal of 70% partially vaccinated by July 4
- Coughing at a Pinellas County beach? Red tide could be why
- 4-year-old shoots 6-year-old in Tampa, police say
►Breaking news and weather alerts: Get the free 10 Tampa Bay app
►Stay In the Know! Sign up now for the Brightside Blend Newsletter