Army Corps, EPA move in to Piney Point response
Vern Buchanan.

Vern Buchanan
Vern Buchanan pushed last week to deploy more federal resources

The Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency have resources on the ground at Piney Point.

As Manatee County deals with a potential environmental disaster, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Sarasota Republican, said it’s important to bring federal resources online.

“We need the brightest minds and best capacity,” he said. “Now I think we have everybody focused on this.”

That comes after news broke of a second breach in a water stack on property further increasing the risk of a full collapse.

Manatee County government, which evacuated more than 300 homes over the weekend, remains a lead agency but the state Department of Environmental Protection is overseeing the transfer of water from retention ponds at the abandoned phosphate plant directly into Tampa Bay at Port Manatee.

With added pumping capacity courtesy of the federal government, County Administrator Scott Hopes said officials can go from moving about 35 million gallons of water each day to as much as 100 million.

The pond with a breach on its side has about 300 million gallons in it at the moment, Hopes said.

The water, which has excessive amounts of phosphorous and nitrogen, brings with it a risk of algal blooms. Buchanan, while stressing he’s not a scientist, said on a helicopter tour of the Bay he worried he’s already seeing signs of that, with something forming on the surface of the water.

The leaks create potential for red tide issues up and down the west coast of Florida.

But officials have stressed, despite concerns about radioactive elements at the site’s foundation, the water does not have an excessive amount of radiation.

Manatee County Commissioner Reggie Bellamy, chair of the Port Manatee Port Authority, said operations have not been disturbed at the port.

Hopes said the evacuations in the area were based on worst case scenarios of flash floods with a 20-foot wall of water potentially crashing into homes. As water pressure gets reduced, the risk to homes diminishes.

Buchanan said it’s important HRK Holdings, the owner of the property, be held financially responsible for the potential ecological disaster at the site.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]



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