As Concerns Rise Over Piney Point, Crist Calls on DeSantis to Work With EPA

Washington, DC – U.S. Representative Charlie Crist (D-FL) sent a letter to the Governor Ron DeSantis calling on the State of Florida to accept the assistance being offered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide independent analysis of the toxic water the state is discharging into Tampa Bay. This will help assure residents and help guide next steps for mitigating damage to the environment.

Last week, a leak in the phosphate plant’s wall was detected leading to a declared state of emergency that has seen over 300 homes and businesses under order of evacuation due to the imminent threat facing Manatee County residents. If the stack collapses, a 20-foot wall of toxic water could flood the community with toxic water, threatening homes, businesses, and wildlife – before ultimately ending up in Tampa Bay. In an effort to relieve pressure and prevent a catastrophic collapse, Governor DeSantis has directed millions of gallons of toxic water to be discharged into Tampa Bay, threatening marine life and putting the bay and Gulf of Mexico at greater risk for another harmful algae bloom outbreak, like the red tide that plagued the region in 2018.

In his letter to Governor DeSantis, Congressman Crist is calling on Florida to work with the EPA and allow the agency to step in and monitor and analyze the water being discharged into the Bay.

“The situation in Piney Point is dire and has the potential to be one of the most devastating environmental disasters our region has seen in recent history,” said Rep. Crist. “We need an all hands on deck approach that will allow the EPA to join forces with our state and local leaders. The public deserves a full understanding of the situation – transparency is key.”

A pdf of the letter can be found here, with the text below.


April 6, 2021

 

The Honorable Ron DeSantis, Governor
State of Florida
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Dear Governor DeSantis,

I write today regarding the horrific and potentially disastrous situation occurring at Piney Point, an abandoned phosphate plant located in Manatee County, Florida.  I have been in contact with staff at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to encourage them to assist the State of Florida with water quality sampling, testing, and monitoring in Tampa Bay.  It is my understanding that they have offered to provide the state with additional resources, including an independent analysis of the toxic water being discharged into Tampa Bay.  Given the severity and scale of the situation, I strongly urge you to consider taking the help and directing the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to fully cooperate and work with the EPA.

As you know, a leak was detected in one of Piney Point’s phosphogypsum stack containment walls on March 26 and is now at risk of collapsing.  Over 300 homes and businesses have been evacuated from the area, as well as the ground floor of the nearby Manatee County Jail.  Models show that a full breach of Piney Point could result in a 20-foot wall of toxic water.  Should this occur, hundreds of millions of gallons of contaminated water would flood the surrounding area, devastating homes and environmentally sensitive areas.

Per your direction, the State has been pumping wastewater into Tampa Bay, informing that “the water meets water quality standards for marine waters with the exception of pH, total phosphorous, total nitrogen and total ammonia nitrogen.”  The millions of gallons of wastewater being dumped into Tampa Bay each day raises concerns for outbreaks of harmful algae blooms and impacts to marine life.  It is also my understanding that while these discharges do not currently pose a threat to drinking water, that may change in the event of a full breach.

A full breach or a massive outbreak of harmful algae blooms in Tampa Bay or the Gulf of Mexico would be a significant threat to environmental and human health.  This is not a drill.  In a situation like this, we should be all hands on deck.  Transparency is key.  Partnering with federal agencies and making water quality data public is one way to reassure Tampa Bay residents who are fearful of what your discharges may mean for their health and their livelihoods.  Thank you for your attention to this extremely serious matter.

 

Sincerely,

Charlie Crist
UNITED STATES CONGRESSMAN            

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