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Piney Point prepares for gusty winds, rain from Tropical Storm Elsa

Additional pumps and generators are being brought in to safeguard against potential power outages.
Credit: Florida Department of Environmental Protection

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — As Tropical Storm Elsa heads toward Florida, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is keeping a close eye on storm preparations at the former Piney Point phosphate processing plant. 

DEP officials are overseeing operations at the site that drew national attention after millions of gallons of wastewater were discharged into Tampa Bay earlier this year. 

HRK Holdings, the owner of the since-abandoned phosphogypsum stack, has staff working to secure heavy equipment and adjusting water management levels in the ponds to ensure the site can endure strong winds and heavy rainfall, according to a news release.

Additional pumps and generators are also being incorporated to safeguard against potential power outages.

Approximately 215 million gallons are still held within the NGS-South compartment, according to DEP. State inspectors say pond level readings are expected to fluctuate due to a host of factors, including rainfall, water management activities and wind/associated waves in the pond.

DEP says it's still working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Department of Health to monitor algal blooms and water quality.

For the first time, this week scientists say they have started detecting small amounts of red tide in areas of the bay around Piney Point. However, the extent to which Piney Point's discharge contributed is still unknown.

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