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Piney Point's owner has a new plan to clean up the site, but it might take a while

The company in charge of Piney Point has proposed a long-term plan that would help finance the cleaning of two large reservoirs containing process water from the old phosphogypsum stack operation.

John Coates, a project manager with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, presented the Board of County Commissioners with the latest developments at the site, which closed in 2001. If nothing is done to remove the process water from the site, it will surely fill up and spill over, Coates said.

HRK Holdings, which took control of the land years after the previous owner filed for bankruptcy, has brought up an idea to fill one of the reservoirs on the site, but it wouldn’t bring the desired result for years to come.

Coates explained that HRK has floated a plan to bring in about 750,000 tons of bottom ash and fly ash, byproducts of burned coal, to fill a 50-acre reservoir that currently contains seawater that was pumped in after a Port Manatee berth expansion project.

DEP has not approved the project yet, however, and Coates assured the board that whatever happens on the site, which is directly across the street from Port Manatee, must be “environmentally sound.” While commissioners won’t be the deciding body on any of the plans on the privately owned land, he welcomed an ongoing dialogue between his department and county commissioners.

(What are bottom ash and fly ash?)