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DeSantis Allocates $15.4 Million To Clean And Close Piney Point

Governor Ron DeSantis at a podium with the sun in his face while on the Piney Point property.
Facebook Live screen shot/ABC Action News - WFTS - Tampa Bay
Gov. Ron DeSantis (center) was joined by Florida Department of Environmental Protection head Noah Valenstein (right), Senate President Wilton Simpson, and Manatee County commissioners on Tuesday at the Piney Point property.

Between the governor's allocations and funding projections from the Florida Legislature, Piney Point could cost the state more than $115 million to clean up and shutdown.

The governor is allocating $15.4 million to clean and close Piney Point in Manatee County. State officials made the announcement Tuesday morning at the former phosphate plant where last week more than 200 million gallons of wastewater was released into Tampa Bay.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said there have been no more discharges of polluted wastewater from the plant since last week. And a leak, which threatened to collapse a wall in the reservoir, was sealed with a steel patch.

The governor said he wants this to be "the last chapter of the Piney Point story."

"So today, I'm directing the Department of Environmental Protection to create a plan to close Piney point," he said. "I've requested that DEP's team of engineers and scientists, who obviously played an important role this response effort, develop plans for the permanent closure of this site, including identifying necessary resources to do so.”

The remaining water at the site will be treated, in case it needs to be released into Tampa Bay, the governor said.

The first step toward permanently closing Piney Point is to ensure restoration and mitigation plans are in place as quickly as possible, he said.

"This will ensure the state is moving forward with a thoughtful scientific plan toward closure to avoid another chapter in this long history," said DeSantis.

He was joined by Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, who talked about additional funding from the state legislature.

“I believe this year, we're gonna appropriate $100 million for the initial funding,' Simpson said. "And by the end of the year, we hope to get a full closure plan with a fully funded amount that may be required. And then the object will be to come back next year and have a fully funded plan.”

FDEP Secretary Noah Valenstein said he appreciates the forward push to move from emergency management to closure, but regulators are not done with Piney Point owner HRK Holdings.

"We also have a team of attorneys back at Tallahassee that are making sure they take advantage of all the information we're collecting to then put together a case to hold HRK fully accountable."

He said to stay tuned for updates on their litigation.

My main role for WUSF is to report on climate change and the environment, while taking part in NPR’s High-Impact Climate Change Team. I’m also a participant of the Florida Climate Change Reporting Network.