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'A lot of relief': Manatee County lifts evacuation orders near Piney Point

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Posted at 11:31 PM, Apr 06, 2021

PALMETTO, Fla. — After five days of constant mitigation efforts at Piney Point, officials lifted mandatory evacuation orders in north Manatee County on Tuesday.

According to county officials, more than 130 people were forced to take shelter at a local hotel.

“A lot of relief,” said Jennifer Ameres, owner of Popi’s Place. “Finally, you know, being able to get back to business as usual.”

RELATED: Organizations monitoring impact of Piney Point discharge on Tampa Bay

Popi’s Place, located off U.S. 41, was forced to shut down Saturday due to the Piney Point evacuation.

The family-owned restaurant missed out on a typically profitable Easter weekend. Ameres said they plan to reopen on Thursday.

“Best case scenario to be quite honest with you,” said Ameres. “Originally when we started hearing about pumping and how many days it would take, they were saying anywhere between 12 and 18 days.”

On Tuesday, county officials announced plans to build an injection well to remove wastewater from the former phosphate plant and pump it underground.

State officials vow to speed up the permitting process.

“The residents and business owners of north Manatee can rest assured that the water atop those stacks will be treated before it goes into the well and then capped to ensure no other water enters that well,” said Manatee County Chair Vanessa Baugh.

While residents and business owners are relieved the evacuation order is over, many worry about the long-term impacts of the short-term solution of dumping millions of gallons of wastewater into Port Manatee and Tampa Bay.

“We’re going to see these effects for years to come,” said Ameres. “We’re already prone to red tide. This is only going to intensify that this summer, which is going to mean fish kills.”