Piney Point deep well injection drilling to begin next week

The process of draining Piney Point, the former phosphate plant site that discharged about 215 million gallons into Tampa Bay in April, is set to begin next week.

On Thursday, Manatee County officials told FOX 13 the plan for a deep well injection will indeed move forward. There are currently 270 million gallons of wastewater remain in the reservoirs of the old fertilizer plant. Under the plan, the county would treat the Piney Point water before injecting it nearly 3,000 feet deep, below the Florida aquifer.

The injection well is a process of draining the phosphogypsum stacks by drilling into the earth to pump treated water from the stacks deep underground, past the aquifer.

Last month, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued a notice of intent to permit the well at the phosphate plant with the county overseeing it.

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Environmental organizations have expressed concern that the deep well injection could be damaging. Several groups have filed a lawsuit, hoping to stop the project before it begins.

"We're concerned that the wastewater that they seek to inject into the aquifer is hazardous waste and we don't think that there's been inadequate characterization of what's in that wastewater," Justin Bloom, with Suncoast Waterkeeper, previously told FOX 13. "I think we have different viewpoints, but we're all here to try to make sure that there is no catastrophic breach at Piney Point."

Piney Point includes hazardous phosphogypsum stacks, a byproduct of phosphate production, which took place at the site from 1966 to 1999.