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State regulators sign off on plan to close troubled Piney Point

A holding area for contaminated water at Piney Point.
Center for Biological Diversity
A holding area for contaminated water at Piney Point.

State regulators have signed off on a plan to close the troubled Piney Point phosphate plant in Manatee County.

Earlier this month, a court-appointed receiver that's in charge of closing the site presented a plan to the state.

On Thursday, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued a statement saying the plan to permanently close four gypsum stacks that were used to store toxic wastewater from the production of fertilizer can move forward.

The state ordered the site's closure after about 215 million gallons of wastewater from one of the stacks flowed into Tampa Bay last April.

The report says as of Jan. 1, the four stacks held approximately 397 million gallons of water. More than half of that is in the pond that last year released about 215 million gallons of nutrient-rich wastewater into Tampa Bay.

Most of the water from the ponds would be injected far into the ground below the aquifer that supplies drinking water. That process is expected to begin in October or November.

Work on closing the facility is expected to be completed by December 2024.

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Carl Lisciandrello is digital news editor of WUSF Public Media.
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