Environmental Groups Press for Judicial Intervention in Florida Fertilizer Plant Pollution Case

A complaint filed in the Middle District of Florida on Thursday accused state officials of turning a blind eye to the malfeasance of Piney Point Phosphate Facility (Piney Point), a facility which allegedly poses grave threats to the environment and human health. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) lawsuit alleged that the phosphate fertilizer plant has been problematic for years, just this April discharging at least 215 million gallons of untreated, hazardous wastewater directly into Tampa Bay.

The Center for Biological Diversity and other non-profit public interest organizations are pursuing the lawsuit. Governor Ron DeSantis, the acting secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, HRK Holdings LLC, the current owner and operator of Piney Point, and Manatee County Port Authority are named as defendants. 

In stressing the gravity of the situation, the complaint quoted Senator Marco Rubio’s reference to Piney Point as a “ticking time bomb.” The 78-page filing then detailed Piney Point’s history, including its environmental regulation and mishaps. Presently, the suit alleged, the facility’s inadequate and deteriorating wastewater infrastructure leaks and is “at risk of further catastrophic failure.”

The environmental groups explained that in the process of making phosphate fertilizer, the plant creates phosphogypsum and processes wastewater. Both are reportedly radioactive and contain carcinogens and heavy toxic metals.

In addition the filing stated, processed wastewater is highly acidic and nutrient laden. In turn, when discharged untreated, it reportedly creates harmful algal blooms which are toxic to marine life and humans alike.

The complaint brought one claim for relief for violation of the RCRA, under its imminent and substantial endangerment provision. The plaintiffs requested declaratory and injunctive relief requiring immediate corrective RCRA action and their attorneys’ fees and litigation costs.

The public interest groups are represented by Law Offices of Charles M. Tebbutt P.C., Center for Biological Diversity, and Justin Bloom.