MANATEE -- State environmental officials suspect a piece of mechanical equipment may have caused a tear in the protective lining at one of the abandoned phosphogypsum stacks at Piney Point, allowing seawater to gush from the site.
“Based on the pieces of torn liner discovered in the damaged compartment, we believe the tear may have been caused by mechanical equipment,” said Florida Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller today.
Once officials at the site are able to expose the torn area, they will repair any damage, and weld a new section of liner to seal the compartment, Miller said.
“The repair would be tested to make sure it is watertight,” she said in an e-mail message.
The department’s immediate focus “is on response efforts to reduce water levels in the affected compartment, so that the source of the leak can be isolated or repaired,” she said.
DEP is testing the water from the seawater gushing from the site for contaminants, she said.
“As the discharge is seawater, we do not expect any significant concerns that will arise from these results,” Miller said.
HRK Holdings LLC is responsible for operation of the closed stacks at the former fertilizer plant, where material from a dredging operation at the port’s Berth 12 is being stored.
Over the weekend, DEP issued an emergency order authorizing HRK Holdings to dump some of the seawater temporarily, if needed, to preserve the integrity of its containment systems, Miller said.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.