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Spring 2021
The Piney Point Fiasco was Completely Avoidable

The gyp stacks at Piney Point have been mismanaged for decades. The current crisis can be traced back to the absurd 2006 decision to allow dredged material from Port Manatee to be placed into one of the gyp stacks at Piney Point, something the stack was never designed for, and should have never been allowed.

Predictably, a tear in the gyp stack liner in 2011 leaked millions of gallons a day of tainted water for weeks. The runoff, contaminated with the heavy metal, cadmium, as well as high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen, made its way to Bishop Harbor, part of the Terra Ceia Aquatic Buffer Preserve. Bishop Harbor received more pollution in that one year then it should have received in its entire existence.

The dredging of Berth 12 at Port Manatee has been an environmental disaster and the pumping of the dredged material from the Port to Piney Point has led to another environmental disaster.

Yet the current crisis at Piney Point was avoidable. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), the agency mainly responsible for permitting the dredge material from Port Manatee to be dumped into the Piney Point stack, has failed to protect the environment from the adverse impacts of Piney Point, and Manatee County Commissioners have stood by for decades with a blind eye and let it happen.

The Manatee County Commission originally approved land use changes in the 1960s allowing for the construction of a fertilizer plant and gyp stacks at Piney Point, arguably the worst land use decision ever made in Manatee Countys history. What was falsely promoted as a benefit to the community has ended up being a tremendous cost to the publics health, environment and taxpayers of Manatee County and Florida.

The Manatee County Port Authority is comprised of the same seven members as the elected Manatee County Commission. Acting as the Manatee County Port Authority, the Manatee County Commission did not object to the dredging of Port Manatee, instead the Commission showed overwhelming support for the dredge.

FDEP and the Manatee County Commission have failed at every level to oversee the management of the Piney Point gyp stacks.

Can things get worse? Yes, they can and yes, they will. Both the Manatee County Commission and the FDEP strongly support constructing a deep well as the solution of disposing of the Piney Point wastewater, the same two government agencies that supported dumping the dredge material from Port Manatee into the gyp stack. There are many problems associated with deep well injection. All wells are subject to failure and there are too many unknowns to safely inject treated or partially treated effluent. The operation of a deep well relies very heavily on predictions and good faith

Floridas phosphate mining industry is an industry of cradle to grave pollution. The cradle is phosphate mining, and the grave is the radioactive phosphogypsum waste dumped into gyp stacks.

The gyp stacks at Piney Point represent the true legacy the phosphate industry will leave behind. There is no economically feasible or environmentally sound way to close an abandoned gyp stack, this legacy includes the perpetual spending of taxpayer monies and risks to the publics health and the environment.

PINEY POINT DEEP WELL INJECTION

It should not be a surprise that Manatee County is on the brink of a financial and environmental disaster, again. The holding ponds at the Piney Point Phosphogypsum stacks are nearing their capacity to hold contaminated water.

In a recent update to the Manatee Board of County Commission, HRK Holdings LLC, owners of the site, said Piney Point is holding about 750 million gallons of water and is operating at about 92 percent capacity. The site can only handle about 19 more inches of rainfall.

Although there are no long-term plans to get rid of the contaminated water, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, HRK Holdings, and a few of the Manatee County Commissioners appear to subscribe to the theory that the solution to pollution is injection. It is assumed the Piney Point effluent would migrate to the Gulf of Mexico, however, because there are no long-term plans to filter the wastewater, the necessary high-pressure injection will likely create new paths of migration.

There are many problems associated with deep well injection. All wells are subject to failure and there are too many unknowns to safely inject treated or partially treated effluent. The operation of a deep well relies very heavily on predictions and good faith.

Deep well injection is done because liquid wastes that cannot be discharged into surface waters are injected into deep wells, thus the worst wastes end up in these wells. If a failure occurs, very little can be done to correct it. If an aquifer is contaminated, it's too late.

Confining layers don't confine and effluents will ultimately migrate beyond the point of injection. Monitoring programs are mostly ineffective. Little is known of the chemistry and the biology of well-injected wastes, excepting that those wastes move underground.

The composition of underground aquifer formations is not always as uniform as scientific models would have us believe. Nevertheless, most studies of deep-well injected wastes are based upon such models.

While the models upon which decisions to inject wastes are based look good on paper, changing conditions in the aquifers can allow wastewater to seep into the ground-water supply, and it would be too late then, to correct the problem.

Over the long term, it will be cheaper to treat the Piney Point Phosphate wastewater to advanced water quality standards rather than trying to dump wastes out of sight and finding later that serious pollution problems have occurred.

GROUNDWATER POLLUTION & DEEP WELL INJECTION

When we consider that nearly 92% of Floridians depend on groundwater for our drinking water, it becomes easy to comprehend that groundwater directly shapes our present and future economy and environment. Its quality and availability can determine where we live, where we find jobs, even where our food is grown, and where our future populations can live.

ManaSota-88 opposed, and still opposed to any consideration by the Manatee County Utilities Department for a Class I Injection Well in the vicinity of the former Piney Point Phosphate Plant.

With our lack of adequate methods of groundwater pollution detection, it is easy to miss a toxic plume because of inadequate technology. The facts are contaminated groundwater may be untreatable with the resource lost forever. Additionally, our knowledge of the health risks of long-term exposure to low levels of toxic substances in drinking water is very limited.

Depletion of aquifers in excess of recharge, commonly referred to as mining, is taking place in many areas of our state. Diminishing artesian pressure, declining spring and stream flow, land subsidence and saltwater intrusion problems are strong evidence of excessive use of groundwater.

These water quantity problems are closely connected with water quality problems since declining spring and stream flow reduce the base flow in streams during low-flow periods which is required to maintain water quality. Salt-water intrusion in coastal areas due to over pumping of aquifers can present formidable water quality problems.

Groundwater is one of our most precious natural resources.A significant number of groundwater supplies all across the state are already polluted or threatened with contamination by toxic chemicals from leaking waste dumps, pesticides, surface mining impoundments, fertilizers and a myriad of less publicized sources.

Contaminated groundwater is extremely difficult, expensive and time- consuming to clean up. It is probably impossible to pump and treat all the contaminated groundwater in a plume and some of the contaminants will cling to soil particles and remain untreated in any event. Clearly, the best solution to groundwater contamination is groundwater protection.

LEAD PAINT IN HOUSING:

HUD Has Not Identified High-Risk Project-Based Rental Assistance Properties

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is the agency responsible for reducing the risk of lead paint hazards in HUD-assisted housing.

HUD monitors lead paint-related risks in its Project-Based Rental Assistance program, but it hasn't done a comprehensive risk assessment to identify the properties posing the greatest risk to young children.

A recent Government Accounting Office report concerning lead contamination should cause everyone to reevaluate which children are at risk for lead poisoning.

Lead is an extremely toxic metal. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, children under the age of six have a higher risk of lead poisoning than other age groups. Young children are more apt to place objects in their mouths. Unfortunately, this risky behavior is compounded by the fact their growing bodies will absorb more lead than adults. Young childrens brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the detrimental effects of lead.

If not diagnosed, elevated levels of lead can cause damage to the brain and the nervous system. It can cause behavior and learning problems. Lead in high doses can result in irrevocable injury or death.

In years past the conventional belief has been that lead poisoning is a health issue associated with children from low-income households. For this reason, federal law requires that children who are enrolled in Medicaid must receive a blood lead test.

The continuous reports of lead contamination of products imported from around the world clearly demonstrate lead poisoning knows no economic boundaries. Simply stated: All children are at risk for possible lead poisoning.

ManaSota-88 urges Florida legislators to work with the medical community to ensure that all children under the age of six be tested for possible elevated levels of lead. Currently, Florida does not have a law which requires children be tested for lead poisoning. Legislation which rectifies this serious oversight would greatly benefit the health and welfare of future generations.

INCREASES IN AIR POLLUTION

Ozone increases in Florida may require new federal regulations. Ozone is one of the six air pollutants that the EPA and Congress have determined are most likely to cause health problems, particularly among children.

Ozone is not emitted directly into the air like sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, or other pollutants. Instead it is formed when sunlight causes other air pollutants to react with one another. The two groups of pollutants that react to form ozone are nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Electric utilities and motor vehicles are sources of NOx. Most VOCs come from industrial and commercial sources such as chemical companies.

Children are more likely than adults to have chronic coughing, bronchitis and asthma attacks when the air is polluted. Asthma is a leading cause of hospital admissions for our nation's children. More than 25% of the nation's children live in areas that don't meet national air quality standards.

Children are more affected than adults on elevated ozone days. Children inhale more airborne particles per unit of lung-surface than adults. Among healthy adults, ozone takes its heaviest toll on those who exercise for long periods of time during summer days.

Ozone has caused damage to forests. Crops are also affected. There have been over 50 scientific studies showing ozone's negative impact on crop yields. In most cases, studies have found that crop yields are 10% smaller in areas with elevated levels of ozone.

If a healthy, good quality of life is to be maintained, the use of renewable energy should be encouraged.