Businesses and families remain in limbo as cleanup continues at Florida reservoir


(NewsNation Now) — Florida lawmakers are now considering using $200 million in federal stimulus money to close and clean up a reservoir. More than two dozens pumps are draining the contaminated wastewater from Piney Point to Port Manatee with evacuation orders now lifted.

The piping is blocking access to some businesses and the evacuation order forced a total shut down for some.

In the Port Plaza industrial complex, Strike Force is a small business not far away from Piney Point.

“We are an energy drink manufacturer. We produce a small stick pack with a small energy drink concentrate in it,” said Strike Force Owner Bruce Schlee.

On Friday, Schlee, and others first learned there may be a problem at Piney Point and it got worse for them from there.

Schlee knew his business is close but like many others was hoping he wouldn’t be impacted by problems at Piney Point.

“My first thought was, wow that’s right across the street from my building, I wonder what the story is,” stated Schlee.

He soon found out that his business would be directly impacted by the evacuation order.

“We are primarily a web-based company, so we sell on Amazon, Walmart, things like that but we do all of our manufacturing and shipping from this location. So, for three or four days we were unable to come in and I’ve got a lot of employees that are calling and saying, what’s going on, are we going to get paid?” described Schlee.

Now the operation is up and running again, but they are concerned about the future.

“Nobody likes to lives next to something that could take out their business at any time,” said Schlee.

The piping is still preventing some people from getting to work just down the street is a tomato processing facility and right now 60 people are off the job until they can get product into and out of the plant.

Concern surrounding the gyp stacks at Piney Point is nothing new in Manatee County. Residents who live in the area say the former phosphate plant has been a concern for decades.

“This was no big secret this water was up there and that it was an issue,” Manatee County resident Rod Griffon said.

Griffon lives just outside what was the evacuation zone.

“As time goes on, we are learning more and more that maybe this won’t be as devastating as we first thought, but the irritation has not gone away. The irritation with whether it is the lack of competence or just inaction from the county for decades,” Griffon said.

County commissioners approved deep well injection as a long-term solution to the contaminated water supply at piney point. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says it is committed to putting an end to this facility and says it will immediately start working with permitting.

NewsNation affiliate WFLA contributed to this report.

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