MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — It’s been two years since one of Piney Point’s gypstacks suffered a breach which led to the discharge of 215 million gallons of wastewater into Tampa Bay.
Since then, state and local officials have been working toward closing the site down for good. Another step in that process began Tuesday.
Crews started the pump system which will remove water from what’s known as ‘new gypstack south’ and bring it across the street through a pipe system and into Manatee County’s deep injection well.
Court-appointed Piney Point site receiver Herbert Donica says the system will pump about one million gallons of treated wastewater out of the gypstack each day. He says the goal is to relieve as much pressure as possible off of the sidewalls ahead of rainy season.
Some environmentalists and residents who live in the area have expressed concerns about the deep well injection’s long-term impacts.
“It could be many many years from now before you find out what is really going on. It’s just kind of out of my hands, just have to trust the authorities that they know what they are doing, and go with that,” said resident Linda Willis.
Donica told us he wants to assure the community the water entering the well is clean and tested daily for nutrients.
“It has gone through a chemical process eight times over and we have dropped out over 99% of the phosphorus and calcium from the gypstack. So, no longer will it be harmful to the environment,” said Donica. “That water is not the same water that was there in 2021,” he continued.
He went on to say the concerns of the community have not gone unheard.
“I want them to know that guys and my team, we are on the same side of the table. We want this to be done as safely as possible. This is the best way to do it. I just want them to know that we are doing this first, to keep the community safe, and second, to close out the system so it doesn’t happen again,” said Donica.
He says if there is any sort of malfunction in the pumping system, there is a mechanism in place to return the water in the pipes back to the gypstack. He expects the process of draining the gypstacks and re-contouring the inside of the pond systems to take approximately two to three years. Once complete, rainwater will drain into a storm-water management program as it comes in.