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Phosphate processing plants in the greater Tampa Bay region have caused some of Florida's worst environmental disasters. Accidents like the spill at the former Piney Point plant fill the history books in Florida.

Skyway Pier Visitors Reflect On Piney Point, Want The Best For Their Precious Resource

Bradley George interviews a couple at Skyway Fishing Pier
Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media
WUSF's Bradley George speaks with Sherry and Dan Spires at the Skyway Fishing Pier

As millions of gallons of polluted water spilled into Tampa Bay from Piney Point on Tuesday, WUSF reporters Daylina Miller and Bradley George headed out to hear what people who enjoy the bay think.

We found Annie Ansperry just outside her home: a converted school bus parked on the Manatee County side of the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Pier.

She's been travelling the country for about three years, working as a poet and artist (she documents her adventures on Instagram). The Skyway pier has become a favorite stop during her three-week stint in St. Petersburg.

"I'll be in town and then I come back out here to the Skyway bridge, because this is just open and not really crowded," she said. "And the view and then the fresh air and watching the boats. It's been very peaceful."

Ansperry says she uses about two gallons of water a day while living in the bus. That, and the situation at Piney Point, made her think about the preciousness of water as a natural resource.

"Fresh water is becoming a commodity that will be more valuable than gold," she said. "And we just really, really need to be more aware of of the water that we use daily. Where it goes and how we can best conserve it and then treat it well and send it on its way."

A few feet away, Dan and Sherry Spires were sunbathing in front of their car. The Michigan snowbirds have spent winters in Florida for about 25 years.

"There's worse things out there that are polluting the water. It's bad, but it's not that bad," Sherry said.

Dan echoed the frustration of many Manatee County residents who say Piney Point's owners should have cleaned up the site sooner.

"They will take care of that problem," he said. "I mean, it should have been done sooner, but at least they're on top of it, and seem to have the resources to get after it."

Back at her bus, Ansperry said she is praying that the wastewater will be drained quickly.

"Especially as I'm watching out right now out to the water and seeing, beautiful fresh water coming in. We don't want that polluted," she said as the midday sun shimmered on Tampa Bay.

Bradley George was a Morning Edition host and reporter at WUSF until March 2022.
I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.