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Hillsborough, Port Tampa Bay, water utility seek link between Piney Point and Red Tide

Hillsborough’s Environmental Protection Commission is told to be prepared to seek legal remedies.

TAMPA — There could be a long line of litigants suing the owners of the closed fertilizer plant at Piney Point over the contamination discharge earlier this year.

Two weeks after the state of Florida filed suit in Manatee Circuit Court against property owner HRK Holdings, Hillsborough Commissioner Stacy White said the county’s Environmental Protection Commission should be ready to do likewise. White previously urged Hillsborough County to be similarly prepared if the discharge of 215 million gallons of polluted water into Tampa Bay can be linked directly to the Red Tide blooms and massive fish kills that followed.

White said the Environmental Protection Commission — overseen by county commissioners — should seek costs for clean-ups, remediation and potentially a fund to assist commercial businesses that suffered economic losses.

“I know the science is complex and we have to establish a cause and effect relationship, a definitive one or as definitive as possible, but if we get to that point I would like for staff ... to be prepared,” White said.

His comments Thursday during an Environmental Protection Commission meeting drew immediate endorsements from Commissioners Mariella Smith, Kimberly Overman and Harry Cohen.