PALMETTO, Fla. - There is no more uncontrolled leaking at the old phosphate plant in Piney Point, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said Monday. FDEP said the water stopped going into Piney Point Creek, but technicians are still closely watching the area.
A new thermal imaging drone from federal engineers will help give officials a better view of what’s going on.
"We were able to get a better idea at how the retention walls are progressing through this," said Dr. Scott Hopes, the Manatee County administrator.
Workers also installed new pumps to ramp up efforts to drain millions of gallons of contaminated water to Port Manatee. There are 26 pumps and 10 vacuum trucks in place. As of Monday night, there were less than 300 million gallons left to go from the reservoir into Tampa Bay.
"I want the best and the brightest on the ground. This is something that could have been dealt with over the years. I’m not looking to assess any blame or anything else," said U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-16th district in Florida.
Samples show the water is not radioactive and passes quality standards. But the water contains phosphorus and nitrogen, making it slightly acidic and harmful to the environment.
As the pond drains, environmental concerns grow. Fishing guides on Anna Maria Island say they noticed changes on the front side of Joe’s Island up to Port Manatee two days ago.
"It could have changed. It could’ve gotten better or worse. We’re assuming it’s probably going to get worse but the water was already starting to turn color and not much life," said Captain Justin Moore of Reel Fishing.
Guides said they worry about the weeks and months to come.
"You’re going to have loss of seagrass. You will have loss of marine life. It’s inevitable. These things will happen," said Todd Romine of Back Country Sport Fishing.
So they want to see action to prevent any damage.
"The state has to step up and take care of and figure a way that this doesn’t happen anymore," said Scott Moore of Moore Fishing.
Federal engineering teams expect to have a report on the remaining water some time Tuesday. The state is working on a way to remove the harmful nutrients from the water during the controlled release before it hits the bay.