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    State will remove plant's acidic water

    ©Associated Press
    December 6, 2001

    BRADENTON -- State officials have agreed to clean and remove millions of gallons of acidic water from the abandoned Piney Point phosphate plant.

    The water must be pumped from gypsum stacks left at the abandoned plant, state officials said. Otherwise, it could overflow into ditches that lead to Tampa Bay, causing fish kills and an outbreak of algae, which could harm underwater plant life. It also could seep into groundwater.

    The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will start treating and discharging the water next month.

    It hopes to finish the job before the next rainy season to avoid what nearly happened in September, when Tropical Storm Gabrielle created an emergency at the former Port Manatee plant. Twelve inches of rain fell on the stacks in four days, bringing the level of the highly acidic water to less than 3 inches from the top.

    DEP Secretary David Struhs signed an emergency order Oct. 16 to release 500,000 gallons of partially treated water a day from the plant into nearby Bishop Harbor, which feeds into Tampa Bay. Struhs approved dumping 50-million gallons, but after the county threatened to sue, the state turned off the pumps at 10-million gallons.

    State officials blame the plant's bankrupt owners, New York-based Mulberry Corp., for the emergency dumping. The company, officials say, gave the DEP outdated figures about how much water the stacks could safely contain.

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