DEP Secretary tours Piney Point, Vows its safety as summer rains threaten
Newly appointed DEP secretary Shawn Hamilton says Piney Point can only handle another 11 inches of rain. But water is being piped out now, and a plan is in place if a hurricane threatens.
Shawn Hamilton has been appointed as the new secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Wednesday, Hamilton toured the troubled Piney Point phosphate plant along Tampa Bay.
There, he met with Tampa bankruptcy attorney Herb Donica, the new court-appointed receiver who will oversee the site's closure.
There are still about 261 million gallons of wastewater held at Piney Point, and summer rains are once again threatening to overflow its banks.
Here's part of his interview with WUSF's Steve Newborn:
HAMILTON: Well, first of all, just going back with being with the agency for over 13 years, being involved for that time and so many different parts of our diverse mission, it's just truly an honor to serve in this capacity. But for our priorities, it's to continue to execute on the governor's vision for the environment in the state of Florida and bring those efforts and projects to the fullest extent possible to completion. That will remain the focus.
One of the focuses is Piney Point. DEP has said that the site can only handle 11 or so more inches of rain. So what's the update, and what's the plan to remove some of that excess water, if we have to do that?
I had a chance to spend some time at the site today, to get a chance to meet with the receiver, but also get a sense for current site conditions. And you know, we're in a better spot than we were a few weeks ago.
But this being Florida, rains are inevitable and we're in the rainy season. Right now, the site's at about that 11-inch mark. But since the last update, we've deployed some intermediate water management systems that actively dispose of water. And so for the most part, we're in a good spot, with a favorable rain pattern and tropics up to this point, it has allowed us more time.