PALMETTO, Florida. – 270 million gallons of sewage remains in the reservoirs of the old Piney Point fertilizer factory. Manatee County’s Administrator Dr. Scott Hopes said a solution was needed now.
“The clock is ticking. The entire area is still in danger. Tampa Bay, the waters on the bay, are still in peril until Piney Point is sealed and closed forever. We’re just trying to do our part to make this move as quickly as possible, “said Dr. Hopes.
The solution is a deep injection site. Under the plan, Manatee County would treat Piney Point’s water before injecting it nearly 3,000 feet below the Florida aquifer.
“We know exactly what components the water in the three different ponds contains, what its chemical composition is, what dissolved solids it contains and what treatment has to take place,” said Dr. Hopes.
However, environmental groups say that any deep well injection is harmful to the environment.
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“I think Manatee County is not responsible for the way they track this deep well,” said Justin Bloom, founder of Suncoast Waterkeepers.
He represents one of five environmental groups – ManaSota88, Center for Biological Diversity, Our Children’s Earth Foundation, Suncoast Waterkeeper, and Tampa Bay Waterkeepers – that have filed lawsuits against the plan.
They are worried about the area’s water supply.
“While deep well injection is the fastest, and probably cheaper, way to dispose of this dangerous sewage, it may not be the safest and best way to protect our community and our watershed,” said Bloom.
Manatee County already has three other deep well injection sites that divert treated wastewater underground. Officials said the wells are deep enough to not pose a threat to the aquifer.
On Wednesday, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will meet with residents of the Central Downtown Library to answer questions as the plan continues.
“I would appreciate it and I think the district commission would appreciate it if the entire community comes together and understands that this is not an ideal situation, there is no perfect world out there. We have one landfill less in the northern part of the district.” than a mile from the Tampa Bay coast that needs to be closed, “said Dr. Hopes.