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Manatee County declares local state of emergency after contaminated water leak at Piney Point

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Posted at 7:51 PM, Apr 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-06 13:42:25-04

PINEY POINT, Fla. — Manatee County declares a local state of emergency following a leak at Piney Point.

“Working on this 24 hours a day. I was home yesterday for the first time in 7 days for five hours. To take shower and change clothes,” said Jeff Barath, site manager Piney Point.

Barath and engineers have been working around the clock, since learning about a leak that could cause a collapse of the gypsum stacks, holding hundreds of millions of gallons of contaminated water.

In a meeting Thursday, Barath updated the Manatee Board of County Commissioners on what his team has been doing to evacuate water off the gypsum stack to maintain its stability.

“Primed and started one of the two siphons located inside of that stack with water, reporting to the port system or Manatee Harbor at 4:16 pm. Worked with the ports addressing concerns that they had to make sure the water itself stayed within their discharged system and is now being discharged directly into Manatee harbor,” Barath explained.

Earlier this week the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued an emergency order allowing the release of the leaking wastewater into Tampa Bay to prevent an "uncontrolled discharge.”

Piney Point has already dumped 30 million gallons of water, however, engineers said the collapse of gypsum stacks holding process water is still a real possibility.

“That uncontrolled release puts a pretty significant danger to environmental and public health safety around the facility, roadways, there's a number of adjacent warehouse facilities people working in them, some local residential areas to the south,” said Mike Kelley, a third-party engineer hired by HRK Holdings, LLC, the company that owns Piney Point.

As of 3 p.m., HRK Holdings LLC. reported the leak of process water into Piney Point Creek "appears to have stopped."

"The situation will be closely monitored in case unanticipated leaking recommences," the statement continued.

There will be a meeting on April 6, where commissioners want an update from DEP.