Senators added $3 million to the budget to address an environmental calamity at the Piney Point industrial site.
Sen. Jim Boyd, a Bradenton Republican, filed the amendment this week after a breach in a reservoir at an abandoned phosphate mine. The potential collapse of the water stack there forced the evacuation of more than 300 homes this weekend, and Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency around the site on Saturday.
“On behalf of a very grateful community, thank you for addressing the problem you all have seen go on in our neighborhood,” Boyd said.
Sen. Darryl Rouson, a Saint Petersburg Democrat, joined in sponsoring the amendment. He represented part of Manatee County for eight years in the House.
“Nutrients spilling out at Piney Point has serious implications for the fragile environment of Tampa Bay,” Rouson said.
The amendment, the largest considered on the floor on Wednesday, would direct $3 million for cleanup at the site.
Senate President Wilton Simpson earlier in the week endorsed a Boyd request for spending federal dollars available through the American Rescue Plan, the recently approved federal relief package.
This money could be just a small step in funding the needed cleanup of the site. The total project cost could run over $200 million as polluted water gets drained and removed from three on-site ponds. Boyd has suggested the water could be put underground in a deep well injection where it won’t threaten nearby pristine water bodies and would not contaminate the Floridan Aquifer.
In the midst of the current crisis in Manatee County, state and federal environmental officials have pumped hundreds of millions of gallons of nutrient-polluted water from the breached pond directly into Tampa Bay. The hope is to reduce water pressure so the breach can be repaired, removing the threat to homes. A home evacuation order has been lifted as a result of work so far.
But the dumping of water into Tampa Bay increases the risk of algal blooms, as the water contains high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen, and high pH levels. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist has called on DeSantis to allow the Environmental Protection Agency to test the water and assure residents of its contents.