Nikki Fried opposes water injection project for Piney Point

A project to inject industrial wastewater from the basement of Piney Point has alarmed some environmentalists. Now Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried filed an objection to the plan with the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

“It defies logic for this agency to approve a permit, for the first time ever, to inject heavy metals, radioactive byproducts and other hazardous wastes from the Piney Point phosphate mining deep into the mine. aquifer, risking further environmental contamination as well as potential contamination of the local water supply, following the ecological devastation caused by the leakage and subsequent discharge of wastewater from this same facility into the Bay of Tampa earlier this year, ”wrote Fried, also the Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

“This potentially disastrous decision would be made despite the industry’s own studies showing a high risk of migration, and despite experts telling this agency that there are better environmental alternatives available, such as reverse osmosis.”

The abandoned Piney Point phosphate mine became the site of an environmental near-disaster this spring. Govt. Ron DeSantis in April declared a state of emergency around the site following a breach in one of the three reservoirs. The DEP ultimately pumped 215 million gallons from the water stack into Port Manatee to prevent the reservoir from collapsing.

The legislature quickly budgeted $ 100 million for on-site repairs, the first step in a complete shutdown of the long-standing ecological hazard. Ultimately, the state wants all of the water removed and the land flattened again. But first, Manatee County officials and DEP must remove water from the three reservoirs on site.

DEP held a meeting in Manatee County on Wednesday evening to discuss potentially grant a permit for the testing and construction of a Class I underground injection well system for injection control. DEP officials say such a plan will only progress if it can be done safely.

“This draft permit would authorize the construction and operational testing of a non-hazardous Class I injection well (IW-1) and a dual zone monitoring well (DZMW-1) for water disposal. industrial waste from the Manatee County Piney Point facility. following a thorough review of the plans by DEP, including engineering and geology professionals, ”reads a DEP meeting notice.

The idea of ​​injecting hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated industrial wastewater into the earth has many people concerned about the potential contamination of the Florida aquifer or the local drinking water supply. Fried submitted his comments siding with environmentalists who believe the plan is too risky.

“Florida’s $ 150 billion agricultural industry, which I am honored to represent, is also at risk with respect to the deep well injection permit you are seized with today.” hui, which is the state’s second-largest economic engine and is essential to maintaining a safe and secure national food supply. ”Fried wrote. “In 2012, Manatee County withdrew its application for a deep well injection permit because producers were concerned about the contamination of the water supply. With one billion tonnes of hazardous waste already in Florida gypsum piles, and with expansion that could add another 500 million tonnes over the next several decades, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection must ensure that crops and the food supply from Florida will not be damaged.

But this begs the question: what to do with the water?

Fried favors using a reverse osmosis process approved by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency to clean the water on site.

“EPA and Piney Point’s own contractor agree reverse osmosis is a better solution, and experts told the agency that a better solution to preventing gypsum stack collapse is to haul hazardous waste. to other sites until the reverse osmosis capacity can be increased, ”Fried said.“ This is something DEP should consider before going ahead with this license that risks to harm our environment, our economy and the residents whose drinking water comes from the same aquifer into which hazardous wastewater would be injected. “

It should be noted that the reverse osmosis filtration at the site failed in 2003, according to a Tampa Bay Times article at the time.

Fried also said the EPA should commit to denying construction of any future phosphogypsum at other mines in Florida.

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