NewsPinellas County


USF scientists announce initial findings from Piney Point research effort

usf piney point leak research (3).png
Posted at 9:23 PM, May 24, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — After millions of gallons of contaminated water were drained into Tampa Bay last month, USF scientists say the good news is that the short-term impacts on the bay are not as bad as expected, but the long-term effect is still unknown.

The threat of a collapsing gypsum stack at Piney Point forced the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to drain more than 200 million gallons of contaminated water into Tampa Bay.


The efforts saved the stack from collapsing but the impact of the polluted water in Tampa Bay is something USF scientists and many organizations have been trying to figure out ever since.

"We don’t have a detailed concentration of what was in the reservoir so we’re trying to interpret that from the samples that we’re taking from the field," said Steve Murawski, a biological oceanographer.

usf piney point leak research (1).png

After studying and monitoring the water for weeks, USF scientists are now releasing their initial findings.

"An immediate concern is that you would have highly toxic water going into the bay that would result in fish kills, we did not observe that," said Tom Frazer, USF marine science dean.

Scientists say the good news is the high concentration of contaminated water was quickly diluted.

"The concentrations are now back to background levels so there is no great concern that we’re going to have any overabundance of growth of any phytoplankton," said Bob Weisberg, USF Oceanographer.

But as far as the long-term impact, scientists say that is still to be determined.

usf piney point leak research (2).png

"The time of year that we really have to worry about red tide is the late summer, early fall months, and it's a little early to prognosticate about what’s going to happen then," said Weisberg.

Scientists say for now they will continue to monitor and study the impact of the Piney Point contaminated water in Tampa Bay.

"We shouldn’t be walking away from this yet, it still needs to be closely monitored," said Murawski.