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Florida Senate Targets $200 Million From Federal Stimulus For Piney Point Cleanup

Manatee County Public Safety

The Florida Senate on Wednesday backed starting to pay for critical repairs of a reservoir at a troubled former phosphate plant in Manatee County.

A Senate news release on Monday said a full cleanup and restoration is anticipated to cost "upwards of $200 million" and that money from the federal stimulus package could be used to address it.

“This nutrient laden water spilling out near Piney Point has serious implications to the fragile environment that represents Tampa Bay,” said Sen. Daryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg. “The funds that we are appropriating will start us on a pathway to cleaning up what has been recognized as a true mess.”

The Senate made the decisions as it approved an initial $95 billion budget plan for the fiscal year that will start July 1. But the plan is considered only a starting point for negotiations with the House, which has offered a $97 billion proposal.

“The state is not responsible for this breach; however, this is an environmental and public health issue that has to be addressed," Senate President Wilton Simpson said in a news release.

Heading into those negotiations, lawmakers received positive news Tuesday that they will have about $2 billion more than previously forecast in state general revenues. Also, negotiations will involve how to use about $10 billion in anticipated federal stimulus money --- something not included in the Senate’s initial plan.

Among 18 changes made Wednesday, the Senate included a new $3 million line item by Sen. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, to start cleaning up the former phosphate plant at Piney Point in Manatee County.

Wastewater on the site is contaminated, and a leak in a reservoir in recent days led to an evacuation of residents and a state of emergency amid fears that a breach could lead a wall to collapse.

Boyd said the goal is to initially reduce the water and then begin a long-term restoration of the property.

Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, is in support the funding and said the state is “essentially stuck” taking care of the private property.

“Not our problem, but we’re going to fix it and take care of our residents,” Cruz said.

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