BEFORE THE STATE OF FLORIDA
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
EMERGENCY AUTHORIZATION TO THE CASE NO. 02-1054
RECEIVER ALLOWING FOR THE DISCHARGE
OF TREATED PROCESS WASTEWATER FROM
THE PINEY POINT, INC. PROCESS WATER
EMERGENCY FINAL ORDER
Under Section 120.569(2)(n), 373.026(7), and 373.119(2) of the Florida Statutes,
the State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection (the “Department”) enters
the following Emergency Final Order, including findings of fact and conclusions of law,
to address the imminent threat of a catastrophic spill of untreated water from the
phosphogypsum stack system and cooling ponds of Piney Point Phosphates, Inc. This
order authorizes the Receiver (Mr. Louis Timchak, Jr.), appointed by the Manatee County
circuit court to manage environmental risks at the Piney Point Phosphates, Inc. (Piney
Point) phosphogypsum stack system, including cooling ponds, phosphogypsum stack, and
ditches (System), to implement the activities specified herein.
The terms used in the Order are those defined generally in Title 62 of the Florida
Administrative Code (F.A.C.).
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. Piney Point is located on U. S. Highway 41 North in Palmetto, Florida. Piney
Point is an inactive phosphatic fertilizer chemical processing plant. Piney Point has been
shut down since December 1999. On February 1, 2001, Piney Point Phosphates, Inc.,
notified the Department that it had no money and could no longer maintain the facility.
To prevent an environmental catastrophe, on February 7, 2001 the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency assumed responsibility for the environmental security at the facility
until transferring that role to the Department on February 21, 2001. On February 8, 2001
Piney Point Phosphates, Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11, Title 11 of
the United States Code. On April 18, 2001 the Manatee County Court appointed the
Receiver over the Piney Point System. The Receiver was assigned the responsibility of
managing the environmental risk at Piney Point. Piney Point has over a billion gallons of
acidic process water stored within the Piney Point System.
2. Piney Point received unusually heavy rainfall from Tropical Storm Gabrielle
during September 2001, which required the issuance of Emergency Order No. 01-1650
(First Emergency Order). The First Emergency Order was issued to prevent a dam failure
in the Piney Point System that would have discharged millions of gallons of highly acidic
process water to the environment. The First Emergency Order authorized the Receiver to
treat the process water with single-stage liming prior to discharge. The discharge, which
began on October 22, 2001 and ended on November 19, 2001 (29 days), successfully
prevented a dam failure. The First Emergency Order expired on February 13, 2002.
3. As of July 15, 2002, Piney Point had remaining available storage capacity of
about 208 million gallons, which is equivalent to the volume of stormwater generated at
the Piney Point System from 16.8 inches of rain. Current weather forecasts indicate a
high probability of rainfall in excess of the storage capacity available at Piney Point.
The immediate need for additional water storage capacity is estimated at 128 million
gallons. The additional water storage capacity can be created by providing additional
storage on-site, transport of process water off-site, and/or surface water discharge of
treated process water.
4. The Receiver has been working diligently to increase water storage capacity at
the Piney Point System to prevent a dam failure and catastrophic release of untreated
process water. The Receiver has increased on-site storage capacity, minimized the
watershed by segregating certain areas at the plant site; transferred treated process water
to the Manatee County Utilities System; and transferred process water to another
phosphatic fertilizer chemical processing plant. The Receiver is also in the process of
finalizing contracts with other entities to transfer water from Piney Point to their
facilities. However, all these actions are not sufficient to provide the margin of safety the
Department has determined is necessary to meet the rainy-season water storage goals.
5. The Receiver is also implementing an alternate treatment technology, Reverse
Osmosis (RO), that separates contaminates from the process water by applying high
pressure across a synthetic membrane. Initial testing indicates that the water quality
resulting from RO treatment (RO permeate) reduces nutrient and other contaminant
concentrations to very low levels, and the water could be discharged to surface waters of
the state with minimal environmental impacts.
6. Based on the conditions described above, the Department has determined that
imminent harm to the environment exists at Piney Point and emergency measures are
necessary to minimize risk.
7. The Department finds that Piney Point has a storage water capacity deficit.
This storage deficit poses a significant imminent threat to the state’s natural resources
from a potential catastrophic discharge of untreated process water. The untreated process
wastewater contains about 1,400 mg/l of total phosphorus, 650 mg/l of total nitrogen, 150
mg/l of fluoride, 11,500 mg/l of total dissolved solids, a pH of 2.9, and elevated levels of
heavy metals. A catastrophic release of untreated process wastewater from a dam failure
would cause significant and long lasting environmental damage, as was evidenced by a
release of process wastewater from a phosphatic fertilizer chemical processing plant near
Mulberry in Polk County in 1997.
RO permeate contains orders of magnitude less contaminants, with total
phosphorus of less than 0.5 mg/l, total nitrogen of less than 1 mg/l, fluoride of less than 5
mg/l, total dissolved solids of less than 50 mg/l, a neutral pH, and negligible
concentrations of heavy metals. Also, a controlled release of RO permeate would
represent only a fraction of the total freshwater input into the receiving water. No
impacts due to salinity changes are anticipated.
The above described conditions require that the Receiver be granted the authority
to release RO permeate to ensure the integrity of the dams at the Piney Point System to
prevent a catastrophic discharge of process wastewater. When discharging, the Receiver
shall mix the RO permeate with deep well ground water or other waters approved by the
Department to minimize the impacts to surface waters.
8. Any discharge shall be monitored in accordance with the Piney Point Sampling
Plan to document any impacts of such discharge.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
9. Section 120.569(2)(n) of the Florida Statutes gives the Department the
authority to issue an Emergency Final Order if, as agency head, I find that an immediate
danger to the public health, safety, or welfare so requires and the Order recites with
particularity the facts underlying that conclusion.
10. Section 373.119(2), of the Florida Statutes gives the water management
districts the authority to issue an Emergency Order if the Executive Director finds an
emergency exists that requires immediate action to protect the public health, safety or
welfare. Section 373.026(7) of the Florida Statutes gives the Department the authority to
exercise any powers authorized to be exercised by the water management districts.
11. Rule 62-110.107(2) of the Florida Administrative Code authorizes the
Department to enter an emergency order when it determines that immediate action is
necessary to abate an imminent or currently existing serious threat to the public health,
safety, welfare, or the environment.
12. Based on the findings recited above, I find and conclude that the emergency
caused by the imminent weather conditions requires an immediate Order of the
Department to protect the public health, safety, and welfare and the environment.
THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED:
13. The Receiver is authorized to discharge up to 100 Million gallons of RO
permeate to the waters of the state through the Piney Point System’s existing process
wastewater outfall. The Receiver shall provide written notification of the intent to
discharge as soon as practicable and in no event less than 72 hours prior to any discharge.
The notification shall be submitted by phone and fax to designated representatives of the
Department, Manatee County - Environmental Management and the Tampa Bay National
14. The discharge of RO-permeate shall be commingled with deep-well
groundwater or other waters approved by the Department to ensure compatibility of the
discharge with the receiving water. The RO permeate shall be commingled with no less
than 2%, and no more than 5%, deep well water (by volume), not to exceed a total of
25,000 gallons per day of well water. The Receiver is authorized to withdraw up to
25,000 gallons per day of ground water per day from the deep, water supply wells located
at Piney Point to accomplish the required levels of commingling. The Receiver shall
discharge no more than 1 million gallons of permeate in any one-day period, not
including supplemental water.
15. The Receiver shall comply with the provisions in the attached Piney Point
16. The Receiver shall immediately discontinue the discharge upon notification
by the Department that the discharge water does not meet provisions specified in the
Piney Point Sampling Plan or that the discharge causes adverse environmental impacts in
the receiving surface waters.
17. The Receiver shall submit a report summarizing all monitoring results and
discharge volumes once every two weeks to the Department’s Phosphate Management
18. The Department issues this Emergency Final Order solely to address the
imminent threat of water exceeding the storage capacity of the Piney Point System and
the risk to the integrity of the system due to anticipated rainfall. This Order does not
authorize any activity other than that which is specifically described above.
19. This Order shall take effect immediately upon execution by the Secretary of
the Department, and shall expire 180 days from the date of execution set forth below,
unless modified or extended by further order.
NOTICE OF RIGHTS
Any party adversely affected by this Emergency Final Order is entitled to judicial
review under section 120.68 of the Florida Statutes. The Florida Rules of Appellate
Procedure govern the review proceedings. Such proceedings are commenced by filing
one copy of a notice of appeal with the Agency Clerk of the Department of
Environmental Protection and a second copy, accompanied by filing fees prescribed by
law, with the First District Court of Appeal or with the district court of appeal in the
appellate district in which the party resides. The notice of appeal must be filed within
thirty days of rendition of the Order to be reviewed.
DONE AND ORDERED ON THIS ____ day of July, 2002, in
STATE OF FLORIDA DEPARTMENT
OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
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