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Inside the effort to close Piney Point and keep Tampa Bay safe

With a new overseer in charge, Florida finally has a plan to shut down down an old environmental scourge.

PALMETTO — The site of the former Piney Point fertilizer plant is still an environmental threat hanging like an anvil over Tampa Bay.

But one year since a reservoir on the property sprung a leak — leading to the release of 215 million gallons of polluted water into the bay — new management is offering a sense of hope that an end to the danger could be within reach.

A pipe snaking to Port Manatee no longer spits tainted water. Engineers stopped warning of an imminent collapse and devastating flood. And a judge ordered an independent overseer to take control of the property from its struggling owner, a company formed by Wall Street investors.

Tampa Bay Estuary Program executive director Ed Sherwood, whose organization monitors and advocates for the bay, said even having a vision for Piney Point is progress. But before the ponds are capped, they will need to survive at least one more summer.

“This rainy season is going to be another test,” he said.