If you have been following the saga of the efforts to belatedly deal with the environmental impact of the problem-plagued gypsum stack at the former Piney Point fertilizer plant in Manatee County, you keep reading references to the occasional leaks of toxic, polluted water into nearby public waters as an “anomaly.”
An anomaly is defined “something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected.”
You might wonder whether that definition applies here.
The reason a team of scientists hired by a court-appointed receiver working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is dealing with the leak is that the stack continues to leak.
This is not surprising. The fertilizer plant it served was built in 1966 before Florida had any real environmental regulations. It was abandoned in 2001 by Mulberry Phosphates (nee Royster Guano Company etc.), the same company that owned the stack that leaked 56 million gallons acidic waste into a tributary of the Alafia River in 1997, killing everything from Mulberry to Tampa Bay.
After the plant was abandoned, it eventually ended up in the hands of DEP officials, who did nothing to close it and eliminate the potential environmental harm. Neither did the private company HRK Holdings, which was the subsequent owner and now has declared bankruptcy.
The issue came to a head last March when water began leaking, resulting in a decision to pump 200 million gallons of polluted water from the stack into Tampa Bay to prevent a catastrophic spill.
The current plan involves treating the remaining polluted water in the stacks to remove the most serious contaminants before injecting the wastewater deep underground.
That is not scheduled to occur until next fall.
In the meantime, another annual hurricane season will occur with the potential for heavy rains and high winds that could threaten this aging facility.
If there is another spill, it won’t be an anomaly.