22 acres of former phosphate facility sold

mjohnson@bradenton.comApril 10, 2014 

PALMETTO -- Two companies have purchased a total of 22 acres of polluted land near Port Manatee for a total of $7.95 million.

Allied Universal Corp., a Miami chemical manufacturer and chlorine repackager, and Manatee Bulk Storage of Mayo bought the land out of bankruptcy court from HRK Holdings, an entity that held the land after owner HRK Industries went belly up in 2012.

Manatee County records show that Allied Universal paid $3.88 million in the transaction, while Manatee Bulk storage paid $4.07 million. The transactions were completed on March 28. Scott Stichter, an attorney representing HRK, said both companies acquired parcels with existing buildings on them.

The land is located east of Port Manatee, at the site of the former Piney Point Phosphates plant. A number of companies have mined and processed phosphate on the property for use in chemical fertilizers since the mid 1960s.

The land is a toxic cleanup site. Before its bankruptcy, HRK Industries was working to remove waste from fertilizer production and phosphate operations on more than 600 acres. The company and its court-administered successor previously sold off some of the acreage. Air Products purchased 36 acres in 2012 along U.S. 41 and recently opened a new factory on the site. In January, Utah-based Thatcher Chemical bought eight acres and a former chemical production plant for $1.57 million.

Proceeds from land sales

have been going to pay creditors. Secured claims against HRK total about $22 million, according to U.S. Bankruptcy Court documents, with Regions Bank having the largest at $17.2 million.

The land has been an environmental headache in recent years. In May 2011, material dredged out of Port Manatee's harbor and stored on top of stacks of phosphogypsum at Piney Point leaked when a containment liner tore. The leak sent about 170 million gallons of phosphogypsum-tainted water into Bishop Harbor. The port had contracted with HRK to store the dredge material on its land.

Allied Universal's new land is part of the 5,000-acre Port Manatee Improvement District. One of the purchasing entities the company used in the land purchase, Allied New Technologies, is a division of the company that produces sodium hypochlorite bleach from salt. The division has a production plant in central Florida, according to Allied Universal's website.

Dave Sanford, the port's deputy executive director, said the port had no involvement in the transaction.

How contamination on the property is handled in the future will be governed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Dee Ann Miller, a spokeswoman for the agency, said DEP retains access easements to the site to handle emergency conditions, if needed. HRK's responsibility for the condition and management of the acreage "is not impacted by the Allied sale transaction," she said. The new property owners are responsible for making sure their operations on the land do not "cause or contribute contaminants or pollution to their property or to surrounding properties."

HRK still controls several hundred acres on U.S. 41 near the port.

Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.

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