Florida Governor DeSantis Urged To Declare State Of Emergency Due To 480 Million Gallons Of Wastewater Discharged Into Tampa Bay Worsening The Red Tide
More than two dozen local businesses and conservation groups asked Florida Governor Ron DeSantis yesterday to declare a state of emergency due to the ongoing red tide and fish kills in and around Tampa Bay. The St. Petersburg city council and mayor have also requested that the governor declare a state of emergency to help coordinate and fund desperately needed cleanup efforts and mitigate the worsening red tide.
The red tide appeared in Tampa Bay in March, shortly after Florida regulators authorized the discharge of up to 480 million gallons of wastewater from the Piney Point phosphogypsum stack into Tampa Bay.
The Piney Point gypstack is a mountain of toxic waste topped by an impoundment of hundreds of millions of gallons of process wastewater, storm water, and tons of dredged spoil from Port Manatee. So-called “nutrient pollution” like ammonia, nitrogen, and phosphorous from that discharge can significantly worsen red tides.
The hundreds of tons of dead marine life discovered in recent weeks has included manatees and goliath groupers, which can weigh hundreds of pounds, as well as puffer fish, eel, horseshoe crabs, sheepshead, mullet, snook, red drum, tarpon, sharks, grouper, catfish and numerous other species of fish.
“Tampa Bay has been a shining example of successful habitat restoration,” said Elizabeth Fleming, senior Florida representative at Defenders of Wildlife, in a statement. “We need to remove dead fish and wildlife as soon as possible as their decomposition is fueling even more catastrophic red tide outbreaks, which could set back decades of progress to restore the bay.”
“Our right to clean water has been jeopardized and now is the time for action to protect Tampa Bay,” said Megan Eakins, Tampa Bay Waterkeeper board chair. “Our area needs the full support of our governor to take the actions necessary to mitigate this disaster and ensure this does not happen again.”
“Gov. DeSantis is following Red Tide Rick Scott’s footsteps by allowing corporate polluters to treat our state as a dumping ground,” said Aliki Moncrief, executive director of Florida Conservation Voters. “We know what to do to reduce these toxic blooms; what’s lacking is the political will to get it done.”
“Nearly 50 years ago, amid the era of burning rivers and rampant environmental degradation, the Clean Water Act was enacted, and yet almost five decades later, too many decision-makers continue to ignore the lessons history has taught us,” said Patience Burke, Waterkeeper Alliance organizer for the Gulf and South Atlantic regions. “We are bearing witness to an ecological catastrophe and will face judgment over the next 50 years about how we do, or do not respond.
The 215 million gallons of wastewater that was estimated to have been dumped into Tampa Bay from Piney Point continue to spread throughout the estuary into Sarasota Bay, transporting tons of nitrogen and other pollutants into waterways and communities.
In June, conservation groups filed a lawsuit against Gov. DeSantis, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, HRK Holdings, LLC and the Manatee County Port Authority over the imminent and substantial endangerment threatened by Piney Point as most recently demonstrated by the releases of the hazardous pollutants into Tampa Bay and the groundwater.
The fertilizer industry creates more than 30 million tons of phosphogypsum in Florida each year. This waste is stored in mountainous piles called gypstacks that are hundreds of acres wide and hundreds of feet tall. Florida has 1 billion tons of radioactive phosphogypsum in 25 stacks, including the Piney Point gypstack and the New Wales gypstack.
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