Florida DEP OKs injection well construction at Piney Point

South side of the Piney Point gypstack.
South side of the Piney Point gypstack.(Courtesy of the Center for Biological Diversity.)
Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 2:51 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WWSB) - Manatee County officials confirm that construction will begin next week to build an injection well to drain more than 200 million gallons of wastewater from the former phosphate processing site at at Piney Point.

The court-appointed receiver for Piney Point, Herbert Donica, confirmed to ABC7 that the permit for an injection well has been approved by the Department of Environmental Protection.

This follows news of complaints filed against HRK Holdings. The decades-long issues came to a head in April when a leak in a holding pond, called a phosphogypsum stack, forced operators to release 215 million gallons of nutrient-loaded wastewater into Tampa Bay to avoid an even larger catastrophe.

The Class I injection well will pump the treated wasterwater from the Piney Point stacks below the lowest underground source of drinking water. The DEP says injections wells are designed to provide multiple layers of protective casing and cement.

Class I injection wells are monitored to ensure any waste does not reach other water sources. Testing is conducted on all Class I injection wells at a minimum of every five years to determine that the well structure has integrity, according the DEP website.

The theory behind injection wells is that the potentially hazardous waste is separated from an aquafer by multiple layers of rock. If one layer leaks, the next layer keeps waste from spreading before it reaches groundwater.

Concern remains among community members and environmentalists. Many worry that the well could fail which could cause more environmental issues.

The problem, critics say, is that in reality, geologic formations are never as neat as they usually appear in sketches. They often fold and twist, making leakage more likely.

The DEP says risk is minimal. “At locations where hydrogeologic conditions are suitable and where other disposal methods are not possible or may cause contamination, subsurface injection ... is considered a viable and lawful disposal method,” it’s website says. “

The planned drill site is just across from the Piney Point facility at the block of 31st Terrace East and 36th Avenue East.

The site location for the injection well at Piney Point
The site location for the injection well at Piney Point(jkaylor | Manatee County)

Copyright 2021 WWSB. All rights reserved.