MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The series of dominos that fell leading up to the current Piney Point disaster includes ignored concerns from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about pumping seawater and dredge material into the now-breached stack, 8 On Your Side has learned.
A 2008 report obtained by 8 On Your Side on the Manatee Harbor dredging project expresses a “heightened level of concern” about potential issues that seem prophetic nearly 13 years later.
“The worst-case scenario for Piney Point being used as dredged material disposal facility would be a breach in the liner,” the report stated.
The first “worst case” hit with a 2011 leak that eventually pushed owner HRK into bankruptcy.
After purchasing the property for $4.2 million in 2006, the limited liability company had hoped to gain profit with a contract to pipe tons of dredging material from the harbor project into the Piney Point stacks. But the leak stopped the flow of material and money within a month of it starting.
Last week, nearly a decade after the first leak, a gaping hole at the bottom of Piney Point’s south stack proved to be another reminder of the corps’ concerns.
The USACE report included three bullet points.
“The gypsum stack itself is not an engineered structure,” the report stated. “The gypsum stack itself contains hazardous and toxic material. There is documentation of past slope stability and piping issues experienced at the site.”
The USACE-recommended plan called for dumping the dredging material in the Tampa Material Disposal Site that’s about 27 miles west-southwest of Manatee Harbor.
The Piney Point plan “is more expensive,” the report stated, adding that the state would have to pay the additional cost above the cost of the USACE plan.
“The [DEP] has agreed to this,” the report stated.
That was not quite for the USACE, with the report stating “there must be a Hold Harmless” clause from the DEP.
Neither DEP nor HRK have responded yet to requests for comment.
USACE Jacksonville District spokesman John Campbell said he is looking for someone who can “shed some light” on the report.