Sen. Jim Boyd officially filed an amendment to the state budget seeking $3 million for cleanup at Piney Point.
The Bradenton Republican’s request is one of 15 amendments filed Monday to be discussed on the Senate floor, and it’s the largest by a longshot. But it has more strength behind it after Senate President Wilton Simpson on Monday announced support for spending to address the Manatee County environmental crisis.
A reservoir on Friday was breached, and the potential for a full collapse in the water stack triggered the evacuation of more than 300 homes out of fears of flash flooding with water walls more than 20 feet high. Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Saturday, and also voiced support for a “permanent solution” to the threat posed by the abandoned phosphate site for more than 20 years. On Monday, officials feared a second breach occurred, though on closer inspection state officials said that was not yet the case.
The full cleanup of the site could cost around $200 million, and Simpson said he supported tapping federal funding provided through the American Rescue Plan for the project.
Boyd’s amendment calls for $3 million to be pulled from the State Capital Depreciation fund. He wants the funding directed to the Department of Environmental Protection to safely dispose of the wastewater and begin a cleanup of the industrial site.
The DEP, with support of the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers, is right now in the process of pumping 100 million gallons a day from the breached pond into Tampa Bay via Port Manatee.
That’s not ideal. While officials confirm the water does not contain excessive radiation as some have feared, it contains high amounts of nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen, as well as high pH levels. That means a heavy risk of algal blooms and other consequences from nutrient loading in Tampa Bay.
Moreover, the breached pond is one of three full water stacks on site, and a second threatened stack has more polluted water than the one leaking now.
Boyd and Rep. Will Robinson, a Bradenton Republican, previously sought $6 million to match with equal contributions from local government to research a solution. The state lawmakers both discussed deep well injection as a possible way to dispose of the water underground without contaminating other pristine waters, Tampa Bay or the Floridan Aquifer.