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Researchers concerned with contaminated water impact on dolphins near Piney Point

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Posted at 3:36 PM, Apr 14, 2021

PALMETTO, Fla. — Right now, dolphin researchers are concerned about how the contaminated water released at Piney Point could impact dolphins.

The pristine water in the preserves near Port Manatee in Tampa Bay are normally lush with marine life including a community of dolphins that have been living there for more than 30 years, but right now, they’re nowhere to be seen.

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"So far we’ve seen very few dolphins in our surveys centered on Piney Point. We don’t know where they’ve gone," said Randall Wells, the director of the Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program.

Wells says his team has been closely monitoring the area for the past two weeks after 215 million gallons of contaminated water was pumped into Tampa Bay from the old Piney Point phosphate mine. He says dolphins’ skin and eyes are extremely sensitive to changes in water quality.

"We are certainly concerned anytime dolphins are not doing what we expect them to be doing and there’s a human cause to that," said Wells.

For now, the dolphin research team and many other environmental organizations are closely monitoring the area surrounding Piney Point for changes in the water quality.

"We’re concerned about the ecological implications. It is such an amazing part of the ecosystem up there and we hope it can return to its previous state soon," said Wells.