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Ocean Conservancy Provides Emergency Funding, Launches Rapid-Response Partnership with University of Florida to Track Water Pollution Impacts from the Piney Point Disaster



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Washington, D.C. – Today, Ocean Conservancy and the University of Florida’s Center for Coastal Solutions are launching a rapid-response partnership on the Piney Point disaster to monitor water quality, track water pollution impacts, and document any effects on marine life like harmful algal blooms and sea grass die-offs. This work is being supported by emergency funding provided by Ocean Conservancy. The cutting-edge research funded through this partnership will allow University of Florida scientists to trace the pollution specifically released from Piney Point as it makes its way throughout Tampa Bay and the marine ecosystem, giving us a robust picture of how the Piney Point disaster ultimately impacts the ocean environment and marine wildlife.

There are around two dozen Phosphogypsum Stacks across the state and the Florida legislature, currently in session, can act in a meaningful and substantive way to address not only the cleanup of the Piney Point site, but also the overall state of all of these stacks and their potential impact on the Floridian marine environment. We are facing another above-normal Hurricane Season in 2021 and any storm that impacts Florida will have the potential to create other Piney Point disasters. This is why we are urging the Florida Legislature to allocate a significant and proportional amount of funding for Piney Point cleanup efforts, and for cleanup efforts related to other phosphogypsum stacks.

The owner of the stack, HKR Holdings, must be held accountable for this disaster. Governor DeSantis and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have attested that HKR will face justice, and Ocean Conservancy underscores how necessary this is: Floridian taxpayers should not be on the hook for cleaning up environmental damage to Floridian water caused by a lack of oversight on behalf of a private business.

“We are in serious need of dramatically enhanced monitoring of the toxic, nutrient rich wastewater that has spewed out of Piney Point and into Florida’s iconic ocean and coastal environment.” Says J.P. Brooker, Director of Florida Conservation for Ocean Conservancy. “This partnership with UF will allow the researchers to test for impacts to sea grass and macroalgae, will conduct nutrient source tracking with stable isotopes, and will assess impacts to phytoplankton and on harmful algal blooms. This research will fill gaps in the monitoring already being done and will paint a clear picture of the Piney Point disaster on Florida’s marine environment.”

“Piney Point is an environmental disaster of incredible proportion, and will leave a long lasting scar on Florida’s environment. This is another alarm bell signaling that we are at a crossroads when it comes to how we plan for and care for Florida’s ocean and coasts – and we need an all-hands-on-deck response.”

J.P. Brooker, Director of Florida Conservation for Ocean Conservancy, is available for interviews.

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