TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Cap News Services) – On Wednesday, Florida lawmakers will vote to spend $3 million to begin diverting nearly a half-billion gallons of wastewater into deep wells before it can leak into Tampa Bay.
Manatee County will be expected to match the money, but environmentalists question the safety of the plan to dispose of the water.
With 300 homeowners now returning following evacuation orders. Florida lawmakers will vote on Wednesday to spend an emergency $3 million to begin cleaning up the mess.
“The initial ask was six million from us and six million from the county. So this is a start on that six million,” said State Senator Jim Boyd, who represents Manatee County. “At this point, I believe, the commission and DEP supports it, is a deep-water injection. So this will be part of the funding for that.”
But Dave Cullen of the Sierra Club argues with the wells, comes risk.
“If it moves and migrates to the drinking water aquifer, how are you going to clean it up?” Cullen said.
Cullen adds the disaster should come as no surprise to policy makers.
“We’ve looked for regulation of phosphate mining and it has fallen largely on deaf ears,” Cullen said.
Senate President Wilton Simpson wants to use roughly $200 million from federal stimulus funds to clean up Piney Point once and for all.
“And it could be $180 million, or it could be $250 million. I think starting somewhere in that ballpark will get us to a closure point. So I would hope,” Simpson said.
Over the next five years or so that we could close this operation out, maybe less.
Late Wednesday afternoon, the House Pandemics and Public Emergencies Committee will begin an investigation into what happened, why it happened and what to do next.
The Sierra Club is calling the emergency a statewide problem in the making with 25 other similar sites across the state.
The majority are located in Hillsborough and three surrounding counties, although several are located in North Florida near Lake City.