After a leak was detected in the liner of a gypsum stack at the former Piney Point Fertilizer Plant in Manatee County, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection authorized the controlled release of water into lower Tampa Bay to reduce pressure on the stack and decrease the potential for failure that could send hundreds of millions of gallons of contaminated water into Tampa Bay. The controlled release has since been suspended, and plans are underway to close the former plant and its related ponds and stacks for good.
Tampa Bay Water is actively monitoring the situation at Piney Point because the discharged water entered the bay 15 miles south of the utility’s desalination plant. The drinking water Tampa Bay Water provided to member governments during the Piney Point breach was, is and will remain safe.
“We’re monitoring tidal movements and working with local governments and partners to assess water quality changes in Tampa Bay. If we see any water quality issues, we can shut down our desalination operations,” said Chuck Carden, general manager for Tampa Bay Water at the utility’s April board meeting. “That’s the beauty of our blended system — we can switch over to using only our ground and surface water supply.”