MANATEE -- Anticipating the completion of repairs to Piney Point reservoirs, Port Manatee officials have called dredging operators back to work and expect the project to resume by mid-week.
“We hope to be up and dredging again in the next couple of days,” said David McDonald, the port’s executive director.
A $14.8 million project to improve Berth 12 has been on hold since June 3. State officials halted work after reservoirs at the former Piney Point phosphate plant, which were taking on the dredged materials, began leaking.
Fearing a catastrophe, officials ordered the site’s owners, HRK Holdings, to release water from the reservoirs -- later estimated at 169 million gallons.
HRK, which manages the former phosphate plant and the adjacent Eastport Terminal Industrial Park, traced the leak to a failed seam in the plastic liners atop the old gypsum stacks.
On Friday, HRK informed the state Department of Environmental Protection that it had repaired the seam and patched or reinforced other weak spots it had discovered. It also plans to keep water levels lower.
“HRK is confident that the balance of the dredge disposal operations can be completed safely,” the firm’s chief executive, Jordan Levy, said in a letter to the agency.
On Sunday, the environmental agency responded that it wanted to see more documentation and 24 hours of monitoring for more leaks before the site could accept dredge material.
That was enough for Port Manatee officials, who on Sunday night issued a 48-hour callback to Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co., the dredging contractor. Reached late Monday, Levy said the repairs were complete.
Despite the six-week layoff, Great Lakes should be able to complete the dredging project by the Oct. 1 deadline, McDonald said.
The port would owe the company fees for the time its crews were idle, but that amount was still undetermined, he said.