Manatee County pushes for deep well injection plan to close Piney Point, for good

270 million gallons of wastewater remain in the reservoirs of the old Piney Point fertilizer plant. Manatee County administrator Dr. Scott Hopes said a solution is needed, now.

"The clock is ticking. The entire area is still at risk. Tampa Bay, the waters in the bay, are still at risk until Piney Point is sealed and closed forever. We are just trying to do our part to move this along as quickly as possible," said Dr. Hopes.

The fix is a deep well injection site. Under the plan, Manatee County would treat the Piney Point water before injecting it nearly 3,000 feet deep, below the Florida aquifer.

"We know exactly what the components are in that water in the three different ponds, what its chemical makeup is, what dissolved solids are in there and what treatment needs to take place," said Dr. Hopes.

However, environmental groups say any deep well injection is damaging to the environment.

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"I think Manatee County is not being responsible in the way they are pursuing this deep well," said Justin Bloom, the founder of Suncoast Waterkeepers.

He represents one of five environmental groups -- ManaSota88, Center for Biological Diversity, Our Children's Earth Foundation, Suncoast Waterkeeper and Tampa Bay Waterkeepers –  which filed an intent to sue over the plan. 

They are concerned about the area's water supply.

"While deep well injection might be the fastest and probably the less expensive option to get rid of this hazardous wastewater, it may not be the safest. There are other alternatives out there, like reverse osmosis. It might be more expensive but ultimately it may be the best way for being protective of our community and our watershed," said Bloom.

Manatee County already operates three other deep well injection sites where treated wastewater is sent underground. Officials said the wells are so deep, they do not pose a threat to the aquifer.

On Wednesday from 4-7 p.m., the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will meet with residents at the Central Downtown Library to answer questions as the plan continues forward.

"I would appreciate and I believe the county commission would appreciate all of the community coming together and understanding that this is not an ideal situation, there is not a perfect world out there. We have a waste site at the northern part of the county less than a mile from the coast of Tampa Bay that needs to be closed," said Dr. Hopes.