Manatee County declares local state of emergency after former phosphate plant leaks contaminated water

Manatee County

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A local state of emergency is in effect in Manatee County as teams work around the clock to prevent an environmental disaster.

Crews are trying to stop a leak at the old Piney Point site that’s threatening the water in Tampa Bay and could have a far-reaching impact on the area.

The Department of Environmental Protection says HRK Holdings, the group responsible for the site, is still trying to stop a leak from a portion of the stack system that was entering Piney Point Creek.

“An uncontrolled release, a complete failure of the stack system,” said Jeff Barath with HRK Holdings at Thursday night’s county meeting.

The Florida DEP says it has initiated an emergency controlled release of up to 480 million gallons of industrial wastewater from the stack after the leak was discovered last week.

“Things are rapidly changing and we are carefully watching them very closely with Jeff and his team and hopefully get through this emergency period without losing the dams but, make it very clear, it is a very critical condition,” said Mike Kelly with HRK Holdings.

The leak could have a big impact on the local community. Thursday night, commissioners were being told to take it seriously.

“They’ve left us Floridians holding the bag of their mountain of waste,” said Brian Rosegger, owner of Lost Coast Oyster Co.

The county declared a local state of emergency, but locals who depend on the clean waterways are worried it will affect more than just the people in the area.

“Obviously any sea life around here will probably be pretty wiped out, the PH is high, there’s ammonia in it, some nitrates, slightly radioactive,” said Rusty Chinnis with Suncoast Waterkeeper.

Manatee County officials say they are concerned about what this could mean for future algae blooms, especially red tide.

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