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Injection Wells Stir Many Questions, Few Answers


BRADENTON -- The troubled Piney Point phosphate mining site has cost taxpayers close to $200 million over the years, and some Manatee County Commissioners want to spend $25 million more -- just to get rid of the decades-old toxic water. But opponents say there is too much at risk and the process is moving too fast.

It was March of last year when commissioners watched a powerpoint presentation by Wastewater Division manager Jeff Goodwin, who introduced the North Manatee County Injection System to County Commissioners. 

Tuesday, before the same commission, Goodwin returned, with his new boss, Utility Director Mike Gore. 

The proposed project was the same; drill three deep injection wells; two on Port Manatee property and another across U.S.41 at Piney Point. 

The estimated cost was the same too, $24 million, though the story had changed. Back then the goal was to "…offer options for industry that have waste streams not typically handled within a wastewater system," said then Utility Director Dan Gray. Gray added, "When we can add wells, it can be a high level asset."

When Gray retired, Gore adopted the project as well as the job as director. Gore delivered his presentation Tuesday with much more zeal then his predecessor did 14 months earlier.

Manatee County has many injection wells for wastewater effluent disposal, none of which resemble the one that brought the more than 100 citizens to Tuesday's work session's in opposition.

The deepest of the three proposed wells would be an estimated 3,500 feet deep; designated as a Class I injection well system, while the other two are Class V wells (1 to 2 thousand ft deep).

Farmers, environmentalists and homeowners showed up to denounce any idea of barium, uranium and arsenic being pumped into the aquifer, even if it is sent 3,500 feet down.

The toxic water in the gypsum stack at Piny Point is said to have them all.     

Gore was joined by Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Deputy Director Chris Klena, from the Division of Water Resource Management. Klena said, "The levels are too low to qualify as a hazardous material."

Klena described the stack as an "old leaky tub," assuring all who were in the room, "everything will go well." 

Parrish farmer, Allen Jones said, "I don't see any analysis of the water, or plans to monitor. We depend on our natural resources for our livelihood. We invest our lives in the value of that natural resource."

Geologist David Woodhouse, who has contracted for the EPA, as a specialist in hydrogeology and geologic forensics said, "Water goes where it wants to go. You can't model it."

Barbara Hines, Chairwoman for Manasota 88, said, "EVERY environmental disaster was assured beforehand."

Commissioners, prior to Tuesday's Work Session, were fighting hard to keep the ball rolling in support of the wells; that is except Commissioners DiSabatino and Gallen, who both weren't even close to accepting the lack of science that was being demonstrated to support the wells.

To most of those watching and those who attended, it was a no-brainer; many questions and few answers. Stay tuned.


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