PALMETTO, Fla. — When owners abandoned the Piney Point phosphate mine in 2001, they left behind an 800 million gallon problem.
Elevated ponds called gypsum stacks are full of contaminated water produced as a chemical byproduct of mining. And getting rid of 800 million gallons of toxic water isn’t easy like State Representative Will Robinson said in December.
"We’ve been trying to solve it for 10-20 years and nothing has happened," said Robinson.
Manatee County, the state and HRK Holdings, who currently owns the property, have worked for years in finding a solution.
In March, the county decided the best environmental option is to move the water from above ground to a deep water injection well 3000 feet below but that idea is still waiting for state approval and funding.
Now for decades, the sitting bowls of toxic water have constantly threatened the surrounding community.
Another fear has been the water leaking or overflowing into Tampa Bay that is right next to it. The contaminated water could cause algae blooms and large fish kills similar to red tide.
For all of these reasons, Manatee County made finding a solution to drain the toxic water their number one priority in 2021.
"We keep kicking this can down the road and one of these days it's going to come back and we’re going to have a mess," said Vanessa Baugh, commission chair in a meeting on December 15th.