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Florida DEP files motion for emergency hearing due to possibility of flooding at Piney Point

HRK has failed to safely operate the phosphogypsum stack system, DEP says
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Posted at 3:18 PM, Aug 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-15 23:44:08-04

PALMETTO, Fla.  — On Saturday, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) filed a motion for an emergency hearing due to the possibility of flooding or overtopping at Piney Point.

The DEP says Piney Point has gotten 22 inches of rain since the first of June. They say they're expecting at another 11.5 inches by the end of September, and possibly up to 24.9 inches if extreme rainfall occurs.

But they say the ponds atop the Piney Point gypsum stack only have the capacity to hold another 10 inches.

The DEP says HRK, the owners of Piney Point, has failed to safely operate the phosphogypsum stack system at the site and remove the water in the compartments atop the stacks. It is required they do so by HRK's Consent Order with the department.

Now the DEP is requesting an independent third party to oversee the management and closure of Piney Point.

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According to the DEP, the significant rain volumes expected over the next couple of months, have potential to cause overtopping of the compartments into the surrounding areas, including Bishop Harbor, which poses an imminent threat to the public health and safety and the environment.

"The request for emergency hearing is another step to ensure the safe operation and ultimately the final closure of wastewater impoundments atop the site's phosphogypsum stack system. The department expects HRK to continue to explore all short-term water management options to remove water from the site, such as piping and trucking water to nearby water treatment facilities, until a receiver is appointed and long-term water management remedies are in place," the DEP said.

RELATED: Florida DEP files complaint to hold owners of Piney Point accountable for wastewater breach

The DEP said department inspectors are on-site overseeing site preparations as staff works to secure heavy equipment and water treatment elements. They are also adjusting water management levels in the ponds to ensure the site can endure tropical or hurricane-force winds and rain.

Additional pumps and generators are also available in case of potential power outages.

To read the entire court filing, click here.