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Crews use sand to reinforce steel plate at Piney Point site

The plate remains in place to prevent wastewater from leaking from the reservoir.
Credit: Florida Department of Environmental Protection

PALMETTO, Fla. — A steel plate placed on top of a seam separation at the Piney Point reservoir is getting some additional reinforcement to remain in place and, ultimately, to prevent an additional leak.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said in an update Tuesday that workers began using sand around the liner to keep the plate secure. That material, along with stone aggregate and geo-composite material, continues "to minimize the concentrated seepage that is being contained on site," the agency said in a news release.

About 204 million gallons of nutrient-rich wastewater remain in the reservoir. An uncontrolled leak was discovered coming from the former phosphate plant in late March, forcing an evacuation of the nearby area and prompting crews to divert at least 215 million gallons to Port Manatee to alleviate some of the pressure on the breached liner.

The state says discharges to Port Manatee -- water that makes its way to Tampa Bay itself -- ceased April 9 and has not resumed since.  

Fears remain over an outbreak of toxic algae as it could tap into the nutrient-rich wastewater, but that hasn't yet happened. The state says there have been no reported fish kills in the area or elevated levels of red tide reported.

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