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Lisa V.

Valrico, FL, USA
female
Speaks: French
Joined Jun 7, 2016
What I Want to Do: Wake folks up
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Why we can't lose site of the event at Piney Point
It seemed to be an ideal spot for a fertilizer factory: nearly 700 acres in Manatee County on U.S. 41, across from a rail line and Port Manatee. But the location is the problem. A mile away lies Bishop Harbor, a sensitive aquatic preserve on Tampa Bay.

A subsidiary of Borden, the milk company, built the plant in 1966. Within a year Borden was caught dumping waste into Bishop Harbor. More dumping occurred in February 1970, creating a series of fish kills that extended through the summer.

The plant changed hands at least four times. No matter who owned the place, toxic leaks sickened workers, killed cattle and drove neighbors from their homes.

The one constant: mountains of radioactive waste that grew to tower over the landscape.

Factories producing fertilizer from phosphate also churn out a radioactive byproduct called phosphogypsum. To dispose of it, the phosphate industry stacks it up into white sandy mountains. Piney Point's two phosphogypsum stacks - gyp stacks for short - are 50 to 70 feet high.

Making fertilizer requires lots of water. As it comes out of the factory the water is hot and as corrosive as battery acid. First it goes into cooling ponds, where some evaporates. Then it's pumped to the top of the stacks. Rainfall adds millions of gallons more, but an active plant can reduce that with reuse and evaporation.

The stacks at Piney Point were built with no liner underneath, allowing waste laden with radium and heavy metals to seep into the underground aquifer. In 1994 DEP fined the company $135,000 for the contamination, but agreed over three years to whittle that down to $12,000.

The company also owned a similar plant near the small Polk County town of Mulberry. During heavy rains in December 1997, a dike broke and 55-million gallons of the water poured into the Alafia River. The spill killed more than 1-million fish.

Mulberry Corp. promised to spend millions to make up the error. Instead, it went out of business.
 
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Joined Jun 7, 2016 Activist Aspirations undeclared 
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