MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — Manatee County is making its final moves to shut down Piney Point for good as commissioners sign off on a plan to build a facility that will treat the contaminated water before it's injected into the ground. However, the plan still needs approval from the receiver.
After decades of the toxic water gypsum stacks hovering above the Piney Point area of Manatee County and threatening the community, big steps are being taken to finally shut it down.
Last spring, one of the stacks sprung a leak and threatened to collapse, which forced the state to drain more than 200 million gallons of contaminated water into Tampa Bay. Afterward, Governor Ron DeSantis and the Department of Environmental Protection vowed to permanently close the facility.
In working with the state, and the court-appointed property owners, Manatee County has been making strides to put that chapter to rest by drilling a deep injection well.
Jeff Goodwin, who is the deputy director of utilities for Manatee County, said the water would be treated before it's injected 3,400 feet underground.
"You don’t have any drinking wells in this area that are any deeper than 800-1,200 feet, so we’re well, well below that," said Goodwin.
On Tuesday, Manatee County commissioners approved a plan for the design of the nearly $18 million facility that will treat millions of gallons of the Piney Point water before it’s injected into the ground. They hope to get reimbursed by the state for its cost.
"I think the right parties are involved to ensure this is closed once and for all," said Courtney De Pol, Manatee County deputy administrator.
The county said things are moving along quickly. Once the treatment facility is built, and the well starts pumping, it will take two years to drain the stacks. Goodwin, who has been dealing with Piney Point for 25 years, said it couldn’t come soon enough.
"For me, personally, it's a huge relief, once those two years are over, yeah, big celebrations," said Goodwin.