MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — This week marks a major milestone in cleaning up what has been one of the largest environmental issues affecting Tampa Bay.
Instillation of a deep injection well at the Piney Point site has been completed and it will be operating the first week of April.
“It’s a safety issue for the community,” said Herb Donica, the court-appointed receiver for the site. “We’re doing this to get this problem out of the way while we’re working on other parts of the stack system to close it out permanently.”
In April 2021, a State of Emergency was enacted in Manatee County after one of the sites giant ponds began leaking and threatened to collapse. State leaders then authorized more than 200 million gallons of contaminated water be released into Tampa Bay.
The largest pond, the site’s south gypsum stack, has been the source of the biggest problems.
“Manatee County has been threatened by those gypsum stacks for 20 years and over the last couple decades people have come up with different plans and ideas and its just not been successful,” Donica said. “So we’ll dewater the stacks, re-contour the stacks, so they’ll no longer hold water. As rain water comes in, it will now drain out in an orderly manner.”
In the new system, water from the south gypsum stack will go through the newly-installed filtration unit. From there, it will be transported under Buckeye Road to the well. Then it will be pumped over 1/2 mile into the ground and past a layer of limestone that seals off the aquifer.
The site is expected to be shut down completely by 2024. After draining is completely the ponds need to be filled. The state has provided $100 million towards Piney Point’s closure but the project is expected to exceed that mark.