PLANNING COUNCIL HOLDS PRESENTATION ON CARGILL AND PINEY POINT SPILLS-Andrew Stelzer03/09/06
The Tampa bay Regional Planning council met today to hear progress reports on the clean up efforts of the Piney Point dumping of waste water into Bishops harbor, and an assessment of the ecological impacts of the overflow of the Cargill Gypsum stack during Hurricane Frances in 2004. WMNFs Andrew Stelzer was there and filed this report.
Gypsum is a toxic byproduct of processing phosphate into fertilizer. About 1 billion tons of gypsum is stored at 25 gypsum stacks in Florida, and they are growing by 30 million tons per year. Each stack has between 1 and 3 billion gallons of process water in it. In 2001, the stacks at Piney Point near Port Manatee was almost overflowing, and the Mulberry company dumped wastewater in Bishop Harbor. Since then Mulberry has abandoned the site.
Nadim Fuleihan, with Ardaman and Associates, engineering contractors who have been brought in to design the cleanup and closure of the gypstacks. He said the plume of contamination of the groundwater is mostly contained to the water directly under the gypsums stacks.
ACT-ful â€œthe groundwater plume at the site is limited to the surficial aquiferâ€”20 feet. Itâ€™s contained with 250, with 1 exceptionâ€”the northeast corner. In that area the impacts extend beyond the property line, a distance of 600 from the stack systemâ€¦â€?
There are only 125,000 million gallons of process water on the site, plus 120 million gallons in the stacksâ€”water that has seeped through into the stacks. Until that water, plus any rainwater that accumulates is gone, the plant can not be closed, But John Coates, with the Florida department of environmental protections Bureau of Mine Reclamation said the DEP hopes to close the plant by March of 2007, and there will be no process water stored on site. Former Hillsborough county commissioner Jan Platt asked who will take care of the site after next March; John Coates, with the Florida department of environmental protections Bureau of Mine Reclamation responded.
ACT-John â€œAt the site March 2007 is just our commitment for no longer having ..were not waling away, we have 5 year contract, ultimately it is required that whoever buys the site even after its closed they have to do long term care and maintence..so whoever gets the benefit will continue to maintain eths tack system and the department will have along term presence, up to 50 years..â€?
Coates said the number of offers to buy the site have been increasing, and a member of the Manatee county commission said they have discussed buying the site and turning it into a landfill. With that, Coates moved into new rules being proposed for all of the 25 gypsum stacks in the state of Florida, 9 of which are actively being used to store waste water.
ACT-Coates â€œas folks were doing their best to prepare for 2005, they were not able to prepare as quickly as we would like..â€?
EPA regulations are that there can be no water discharged, unless the levels rise to the point where they might spill. But Coates pointed out several weaknesses with the regulatory strategy, including that the model is only updated every 5 years, there is an inadequate margin of error before the stacks overflow, and that there are not enough methods can be used to the rid of wastewater. Coates went over some of the new rules being proposed.
ACT-Coates â€œas the water levels rise, we want to be able say the industry needs to report to us more frequently, every dayâ€¦event storage, designed t tell us, how much can you handle in 24 hoursâ€¦alsoâ€¦rainfall..â€?
The DEP held a workshop in Bartow last night, and is taking public comments on the new rules, which would mandate that all stacks have a capacity for 16.25 inches of rain on June 1st, the start of the rainy season, and 1a capacity for 12 inches of rain on October 1st, the water would not be allowed to rise to within 3 to 5 feet of the top of the stacks, and if a facility was in violation, they would have 90 days to come up with a solution.
ACT-Coates â€œthe rainfall, folks here, weather experts, rainfall records, they recognize that high rainfall and low rainfall tend to oscillate over several decades, and currently the experts say we are on the upswing of one of these oscillationsâ€¦we recognize the effluents rules donâ€™t react so there is alack of ability to consumed..â€?
Daniel Hahn with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported on the end of the 1st phase of clean up after rains from hurricane Jeanne caused a breach in the rim of the Cargill gypsum stacks in September of 2004, resulting in a spill of 65 million gallons of acidic wastewater into nearby Archie creek and Hillsborough bay. 150 acres overall were effected; Hahn said that most of the damage occurred before any scientists could get out to observe, but counting dead crabs in crab traps that were already in the water before the storm served as an effective measuring tool of how deadly the spill was, along with counting dead fish which had washed up on shore. There was also major damage to seagrasses.
ACT-Hahn â€œthere were about 21 and a half acres stresses and 2 and a half no longer visible out there..â€?
The trustees of xxx have jurisdiction to pursue a claim against the Mosaic company, which was formerly Cargill, which owns the stacks, Hahn said that so far, Mosaic has been cooperative and are financially supporting the process of trying to restore the area, and come up with methods to heal the area, to make up for the environmental benefits that have been lost over the past year and a half. The public is invited to submit ideas as well, and some will be funded. You can email suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
For WMNF news, from Pinellas Park, Iâ€™m Andrew STELZER