By BLANCHE HARDY, PG
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) has published the first 2023 update on the conditions at the abandoned Piney Point phosphate plant.
The site is most recently known for the 10-million-gallon release of contaminated water in October 2021 that discharged more than 16 tons of nitrogen and other contaminants into Tampa Bay.
FDEP continues to provide regulatory oversight of the facility and is committed to working with the receiver and its contractor, Foreign, LLC to ensure progress towards final closure of the site is done as expeditiously as possible.
Closure work is progressing at the Old Gypsum Stack (OGS) South Compartment. The contractor is grading the area to prevent any additional accumulation of rainwater. Discharge from the OGS South Compartment to Port Manatee ceased in October 2022.
Having discharged an estimated billion gallons of contaminated water into Tampa Bay since its inception more than half a century ago, it appears Piney Point is finally on the road to closure.
The site received 0.41 inches of rain in the beginning of the year and clean non-contact stormwater is being discharged through the site’s permitted outfall along Buckeye Road south of the gypsum stacks.
Samples are collected in the outfall during runoff events to confirm permit criteria are being met.
FDEP reports the current storage capacity of additional rainfall is 24.9 inches.
Piping of water to Manatee County’s North Regional Water Reclamation Facility is on-going and more than 44.5 million gallons have been transferred to date. Spray evaporation is also underway in the New Gypsum Stack (NGS) North compartment.
About 263 million gallons of water are being held in the NGS south compartment. FDEP expects pond level readings to fluctuate according to wind, weather, and water management activities.
Both the Manatee County injection-well and
water-treatment system planned to mitigate and dispose of roughly 600 million gallons of site-related contaminated surface water are scheduled to be completed this year.
Closure is anticipated to occur sometime in 2024.
Current plans will convert the gypsum stacks to a stormwater system once they are retrofitted to prevent further catastrophes.●