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Concerns abound about injecting Piney Point wastewater deep underground

Environmental officials say that is the best solution to getting rid of the water as critics say they are downplaying the threat of underground contamination.

State environmental regulators recently said they intend to allow polluted water from the Piney Point phosphate plant in Manatee County to be pumped deep below the surface.

But not everyone is on board with this decision.

The move comes after more than 200 million gallons of dirty water were allowed to flow into Tampa Bay earlier this year, after a breach was found in the plant's gypsum stack.

Up to 4 million gallons a day of wastewater would be injected nearly 2,000 feet below the drinking water aquifer. Local and state environmental officials say this is the best solution to getting rid of the water, which is still in danger of bursting the earthen walls of the stack.

Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director of the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity, is concerned that state officials have downplayed the threat of underground contamination.

"We have material from a phosphogypsum stack that is radioactive," Lopez said. "It's corrosive, it is toxic in that the material itself — we know that phosphogypsum has lead, cadmium, chromium and other things to be concerned about."

Lopez said the state banned deep-well injection of hazardous waste decades ago. But state regulators are saying the water does not contain hazardous waste.