Piney Point crisis striking concerns in other Tampa Bay communities with gypsum stacks

Hillsborough County

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — There are 25 gypsum stacks across the state of Florida, according to the Department of Environmental Protection. One of the four active stacks is located in Riverview and, in the wake of the situation at Piney Point, it has people thinking.

“If it happened at one, what’s happening with the breach could happen everywhere,” said Diane Prete, who lives a couple miles away from the gypsum stack on US Highway 41 in Hillsborough County. “Until this happened I never gave it a second thought.”

Now her mindset is a little different.

“I’m really concerned because it’s directly across the way,” said Prete.

Environmental advocate Walter Smith with Sierra Club-Florida said every gypsum stack across the state needs to be re-evaluated because what happened at Piney Point can’t happen again.

“That wasn’t even active. Think about an active situation that gets out of control,” said Smith.

He believes the federal level needs to be more involved. Back in February, a group of Florida environmentalists sent a petition to Washington asking the Environmental Protection Agency to provide more oversight with gypsum stacks.

Hillsborough County environmental leaders tell 8 On Your Side that it’s the state issuing permits for these sites and conducting quarterly check-ins.

“From local level to federal, every level needs to be involved in the review and process of everything that’s going on here,” said Smith.

He also added that it can’t just be the government doing the leg work. He believes corporations need to be more transparent about the risks of these sites and communities need to educate themselves more on what’s in their back yards.

“They must understand the hazard and what they need to do themselves as an organized group to be able to protect themselves,” he said.

Smith is an organizer of the Tampa Bay Disaster Resiliency Initiative. Their team is preparing to provide outreach and educations to communities with these waste water sites.

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April 24 2021 08:00 am

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