MANATEE -- Workers at HRK Holdings LLC over the weekend shut down some of their pumps after a homeowner said the level of water leaking from the site through the ditch behind his house had risen to a point where he was concerned.
After checking out the complaint of the unnamed homeowner, HRK shut down four 6-inch pumps, according to a daily status report filed over the weekend that the company must provide to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The pumps were shut down at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, slowing the rate of discharge in one area where the huge former phosphate stacks are leaking, according to information in the report.
The report noted that the intervention had equalized water levels, which it said by Sunday “are holding at 8-inches below the emergency overflow structure,” in that area.
The company has converted former gypsum stacks at what was once a fertilizer plant to process and dispose of dredge material from a construction project at Port Manatee.
Although the dredging has been temporarily halted, when it is going on, material moves through a pipe with the help of seawater from Manatee Harbor; heavier material is filtered out, and the clarified seawater is piped back to Manatee Harbor.
Company officials have said they suspect that ruptures in the lining covering the floor of the former gypsum stacks at the facility are the reason as much as 3.88 million gallons a day have been pouring into ditches around the property.
The leaking water, which state tests show to be contaminated with above-normal levels of phosphorus and nitrogen, and the toxic heavy metal cadmium, drains into nearby Bishop Harbor.
Company officials said last week they hoped to identify the cause of ruptures by draining one of the damaged compartments by Wednesday .
Jordan Levy, the company’s chief executive officer, could not be reached for comment Monday, but one of the status reports over the weekend indicated that workers were still trying to determine the overall rate of the leak.
Repeated Bradenton Herald requests of HRK and DEP officials have not yet produced an estimate of how much has leaked from the facility since the company first reported difficulties on May 11.
On May 29, state officials issued an order allowing emergency discharges from the facility in order to ensure the integrity of the 400-acre structure at 13300 U.S. Hwy. 41 N.
Meanwhile, Port Manatee officials met with County Administrator Ed Hunzeker Monday to discuss the Piney Point contamination and the fixes needed to prevent further contamination, along with how to restart the stalled dredging project.
Commissioners are concerned that if the dredge sits idle too long, the Great Lakes Dredging Company will pack up its equipment and move on to another project. If that happens, the port authority would have to spend money to bring the dredge back to re-start the project.
Hunzeker is expected to report to county commissioners at 9 a.m. today . Port Authority officials will also report on the dredging project, as well as other issues surrounding the Piney Point situation.
In addition, Charlie Hunsicker, director of the county’s natural resources department, will update commissioners on what the county is doing to monitor water quality, according to county spokesman Nick Azzara. Information on how much has leaked from the site must come from the company or the state DEP because the latter is the primary regulatory agency overseeing the situation, Azzara said.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031. Reporter Toni Whitt contributed to this report.