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Piney Point breach prompts Manatee County to declare local state of emergency

Local state of emergency called as a precaution against potential uncontrolled release of process water in north Manatee County

MANATEE COUNTY – On April 1, Manatee County Commissioners declared a local state of emergency after receiving an update from HRK regarding a breach at the Piney Point phosphogypsum stack. An uncontrolled breach is not imminent but, if the conditions of the stack worsen, nearby property owners could be impacted by the process water.

The stacks are owned by HRK Holdings, LLC and the environmental oversight falls to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Manatee County Commissioners have pushed for the interested parties to find an environmentally responsible solution, but have no authority over the site.

"It is a very critical condition and uncontrolled release is a real possibility at this stage," said Mike Kelly, the engineer of record for HRK. "Getting the water off the stack is imperative. That uncontrolled release puts a pretty significant danger to environmental and public health.”

Recognizing a potential threat to local residents and business owners, Commissioners unanimously declared the local state of emergency at the tail end of a regularly scheduled land use meeting today.

"The water is not toxic; the real harm is the potential for excessive nutrients to reach Tampa Bay," Manatee County Environmental Division Manager Rob Brown said after the meeting. "Nutrients can cause algae blooms and exacerbate red tide and when we see red tide outbreaks they may cause fish kills."

The declaration authorizes the County to act quickly to a situation with financial and staffing resources.

The emergency declaration adopted by the Board states:

  • Engineers cannot predict with absolute certainty the location or severity of contaminated water releasing resulting in hazardous impacts; and
  • Any contaminated water release in unplanned large amounts can result in injuries, damage to public and private property, and may result in first responders and government agencies intervening to protect lives, property, and the environment and to reduce impacts to utilities, public buildings, communication systems, transportation systems, and infrastructure.