SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Local environmentalists are calling for a six-month moratorium on phosphate processing and more oversight on phoshogypsum stacks like the one that failed at Piney Point.
Suncoast Waterkeeper and Tampa Bay Waterkeeper boards held an emergency meeting earlier this week to discuss the situation at the gypsum stacks at Piney Point in Manatee County.
The evacuation orders were lifted Tuesday afternoon, but the Waterkeepers are demanding action. In a joint statement released by the group, organizers wrote, “The current failure at the Piney Point facility owned by HRK was preventable. FDEP knew of the failures of the liner not only at Piney Point but other phosphogypsum stacks.”
Other officials have made similar statements with Manatee County Commissioner Scott Hopes saying that the stacks have been an issue for decades.
Here is what the Waterkeeper boards are demanding from government officials:
- Hold all responsible parties accountable.
- Establish a statewide commission for phosphogypsum stack operations and closure. The commission should be composed of Waterkeepers, environmental advocates, state, federal, and other stakeholders.
- The state must totally fund the closure of all Piney Point stacks including removing the existing water, capping the site to prevent any water containment on site.
- The state must process the seepage water to prevent degradation to the environment.
- The State of Florida must provide enhanced water monitoring for 5 years and establish a public website with real time, historical data with links to all permit data related to the Piney Point/HRK site (Not Oculus).
- The State of Florida must test fish within the Tampa and Sarasota Bay estuary for heavy metals and other parameters for 2 years. Reference to previous study 1999.
- The State of Florida must develop a management plan to prevent stack failures for all phosphogypsum stacks within the State of Florida.
- The State of Florida must enact a moratorium on any processing of phosphate ore for 6 months to insure bonds can provide financial resources to responsibly close the stacks.
- The State of Florida must maintain the closure for snook and redfish for at least two years within the Tampa Bay and Sarasota Bay estuaries.