NewsPiney Point Leak


Drilling to begin this week for deep well to house Piney Point wastewater

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Posted at 5:48 PM, Dec 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-20 17:48:49-05

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — It’s been months since residents in Manatee County dealt with the imminent threat of a collapse at Piney Point. Since then, officials have been working quickly to find a solution to ultimately close the old phosphate plant. This week begins that process with drilling for a deep well to house wastewater.

“Literally, you go to the corner, you can look down the street, and you can see it there,” said Ryan Frewin.

Frewin and his family live in the footsteps of Piney Point. Months ago, he remembers having to pack up and briefly leave because of the potential threat.

“We, okay, we’re going to have to evacuate, and that was a nightmare trying to grab all the important stuff,” said Frewin.

Fast-forward to December, and now next steps are underway for the old phosphate plant. Manatee County officials told ABC Action News drilling for the deep well for Piney Point wastewater will begin this week.

The well would inject Piney Point’s process water about 3,000 feet underground, and the county said that process water will be pre-treated prior to injection into the well.

“We’re worried that that polluted wastewater may migrate into the upper portions of the aquifer, where we get our drinking water from,” said Justin Bloom, the founder of Suncoast Waterkeeper.

Bloom shared his concerns over Piney Point, including what’s to be done as the rainy season inches closer, and the deep well plan. As far as other solutions, Bloom points to options like reverse osmosis.

“We saw the worst red tide this summer that Tampa Bay has seen in over 50 years. We want to protect our community from that, and we want to protect our community’s drinking water supplies and our aquifer for generations to come, and I think that they’re at risk,” said Bloom.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said it determined that Manatee County's application “to construct and test an underground injection control well and an associated dual-zone monitor well meets all applicable regulations for protection of groundwater resources and the environment following a thorough review.”

The Florida DEP said the injection location is beneath the underground source of drinking water and "the well is constructed with five separate casings to ensure the integrity of the injection well, and proper confinement and separation for the protection of overlying aquifer systems."

The DEP also shared that it conducts a wide variety of separate compliance inspections and monitoring of both the injection well and monitoring wells to ensure they are properly operated and maintained in compliance with all regulatory requirements.

Still, some neighbors want to see how it all shakes out to see something ultimately done with Piney Point.

“The way I see it is, they’ve got this plan, try it out, see how it works. What else can you do?” said Frewin. “You don’t want it to just keep sitting there and fill back up as rain falls and everything, so we do want to get rid of it.”