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Millions of gallons of wastewater released from Piney Point will cause ecological damage

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Posted at 5:48 PM, Apr 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-06 13:41:12-04

PINEY POINT, Fla. — Millions of gallons of wastewater being released from Piney Point into Tampa Bay could be ecologically damaging.

The water is rich in phosphorus and nitrogen which are nutrients. Scientists say suddenly adding a large amount of nutrients to natural water will result in algae and bacteria growth.

RELATED: Company that owns former Piney Point phosphate mine filed bankruptcy, sued by bank

Algae can suffocate fish and as a result, there may be fish kills or red tides associated with this.

“The water underneath where the algae are growing can become anoxic or lose its oxygen content and then become un-breathable for fish,” said Matthew Pasek, Professor at USF School of Geosciences.

Pasek says organisms that feed on algae like amoeba can start to grow more frequently. He says the water will also begin to smell similar to a swamp.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection says there is no impact to groundwater from the Piney Point water. There is also no threat to Lake Manatee, the primary source of drinking water.

Scientists tell ABC Action News the situation at Piney Point is another example of why we need to reduce nutrient delivery to our coastal waters across the state.

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

The Dean of the USF College of Marine Science Thomas Frazer says we are all potential sources of nutrients.

As individuals, we can help by minimizing actions that deliver nutrients and other pollutants into our waterways.

“When we fertilize our lawns, for example, we should take care in how we do that. Don’t bump too much fertilizer, don’t do it when it rains,” said Frazer.

You can also help to minimize nutrients that enter our waterway by removing debris from storm drains, compost yard waste and pump septic tanks regularly.