Apr. 13—MANATEE — After an environmental disaster and a directive from Gov.
The former phosphate processing plant had
In a news briefing Tuesday morning, DeSantis said he was directing the
"I've requested DEP's team of engineers and scientists, who obviously played an important role in this response effort, to develop plans for the permanent closure of this site, including identifying necessary resources to do so," DeSantis announced. "This will ensure the state is moving forward with a thoughtful, scientific plan toward closure to avoid another chapter in this long history."
Speaking with the media, FDEP Secretary
"I think everyone scratches their head," he said. "What made sense with having HRK come in and do this more than a decade ago? How did that happen? The more I learn, the less I understand that, so certainly that's being looked at."
But when site operators discovered a leak in one of the ponds, FDEP approved an emergency final order allowing them to pump that water into
Gypsum is a slightly radioactive byproduct of phosphate processing. Because it cannot be used for anything else, the leftover gypsum at
The first step in closing the site, DeSantis said, is getting rid of that process water. There are already two companies on-site working to clean the 221 million gallons of water that are still in the pond that began leaking on
According to DeSantis, those companies are working on a
The governor's announcement was met with a mixed reaction by Earthjustice, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the environment. In a statement provided Tuesday morning, a representative said they hoped to see the state go even further by planning for
"The state has to make adequate investment to clean the water, close the site and make commitments to regulation and enforcement that ensures we are never on the edge of a disaster like this again. This is a first step, and we need to see the follow-through before we celebrate," said
"The DEP needs to investigate the other
"We're looking forward to appropriating these dollars,"
Simpson added that the Legislature will continue working with FDEP throughout the year to finish that plan and determine the total cost. In the meantime,
Valenstein had previously committed to close off the gypsum stacks at
Speaking on Tuesday, Valenstein reiterated those statements and also explained how the state will work to hold HRK accountable for the leak, which environmentalists fear will lead to a harmful algae bloom affecting human health and local tourism.
"The folks that you see behind here are remaining on-site to continue," Valenstein said, gesturing to FDEP teams working at the
While officials have repeated that they plan to hold HRK financially accountable by slapping the company with fines, that claim has come under scrutiny in light of HRK's bankruptcy. In response, Valenstein said state lawyers are preparing a legal case that may target the individuals in charge of the company.
"We have put together a team who's able to look at any corporate entities responsible and whether the facts that we collect allow us to identify any individuals associated with those. We look forward to making our case in court," he explained. "We are preparing as rigorous a legal team as you see on the ground with scientists and engineers to absolutely make certain that we are moving forward and putting every effort to hold folks accountable, regardless or not of particular corporations and circumstances."
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