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Deep well for Piney Point waste called pending 'disaster'

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By Matt M. Johnson

MANATEE COUNTY – Half a billion gallons of contaminated water at the former Piney Point Phosphates property will be pumped thousands of feet underground if a planned Manatee County injection well plan is approved by the state.

Critics say the new well will compound the ruinous environmental pollution it is meant to contain.

"We're worried about the environmental disaster that's coming," said Alan Jones, a potato, bean, cattle and citrus farmer on Buckeye Road.

The well, in the works since 2012, took heavy criticism at a public meeting Wednesday night as state officials and engineers working for the county defended the project to several dozen Manatee and Hillsborough county residents in county commission chambers.

If built, the well would receive toxic water left on Piney Point land after a 2011 leak in a containment area allowed 170 million gallons of wastewater to flow into nearby Bishop Harbor.

Susan McMillan, president of citizens group Protect Our Waters Inc., cataloged a litany of failures at similar wells around the nation. She said one study cataloged 7,000 failures over a three-year period.

"I think we have a really good reason to be concerned," she said.

The well will be built near the southeast corner of South Dock Street and U.S. 41 in 2015 or 2016, along with two shallow fresh water recharge wells on Port Manatee property.