Piney Point injection well ready for operation, county says

ABC7 News at 6pm
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 7:03 AM EDT
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PALMETTO, Fla. (WWSB) - Two years after contaminated water started leaking from a phosphogypsum stack at a former fertilizer processing plant at Piney Point, Manatee County Utilities crews are poised to begin emptying those reservoirs by pumping millions of gallons of that water deep underground.

After more than a year of drilling, the injection well at the site is ready to begin operation, county officials announced Tuesday.

In April 2021, a leak was detected in a reservoir holding about 460 million gallons of contaminated water. Fearing a catastrophic breach, officials ordered the evacuation of more than 300 homes. Engineers eventually released 215 million gallons of wastewater directly into Tampa Bay to relieve pressure on the walls of the reservoir.

The state declared a state of emergency and earmarked $100 million to help resolve the problems at the site.

The contaminated water from the phosphogypsum stacks will be pretreated before being pumped underground.

The Class I injection well will pump the treated wastewater 3,300 feet below ground, below the lowest underground source of drinking water. 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.

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 Department of Environmental Regulation.

It is anticipated that the disposal will begin next week, the county said in a news release.

“The cooperation and collaboration with the DEP have been key in getting this project fast-tracked,” said Manatee County Utilities Director Evan Pilachowski. “We are so pleased that we are to this point in the process already.”

“We are excited to write the final chapter of this Piney Point story,” said Manatee County Commission Chair Kevin Van Ostenbridge.