In our ongoing series on phosphate mines, WUSF reports on the long, tangled history of Florida’s phosphate mines and the environment.
At the construction entrance to the Piney Point phosphate plant – off Buckeye Road in northern Manatee County, just south of the Hillsborough County line – the smell of phosphate and gypsum hangs heavy in the air.
A bulldozer is busy pushing sand into a hole from which more than 200 million gallons of tainted water flowed into Tampa Bay. This isn’t the first time this has happened. Accidents like this fill the history books in Florida, including two here at this very site.
Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes became the face of that disaster in late March. “We’re down to about 340 million gallons that could breach in totality in a period of minutes, and the models for less than an hour are as high as a 20-foot wall of water,” he said during a news conference, when 300 families were evacuated for several days when it looked like a breach in the gypstack was “imminent.”
Long before Piney Point, phosphate processing plants in the greater Tampa Bay region have caused some of Florida’s worst environmental disasters. Accidents like these fill the history books in Florida.
For the rest of this article: https://wusfnews.wusf.usf.edu/environment/2021-06-16/history-of-phosphate-mining-in-florida-fraught-with-peril