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Manatee County Utilities Considers Expanding Service Area Following Piney Point Breach

PALMETTO, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Manatee County Government is asking Manatee County Utilities to provide a report on water quality and how much it would cost to expand the area that the company services to include more homes near Piney Point.

Juneteenth at Mozley Park
(Credit: Maria Boynton/CBS Local)

This comes just two weeks after a breach was found at a Piney Point reservoir and millions of gallons of contaminated water was transferred into Tampa Bay to avoid a tidal wave throughout the surrounding community.

Larry Franke has lived near Piney Point for eleven years and says "I think a lot of people were worried about the water, which they said didn't affect anything." Ever since the breach at the Piney Point reservoir, he claims his water has smelled very different, "like raw sewage."

He isn't the only one to notice changes in water near Piney Point. Three pictures were sent to CW44 by three different women who all live within seven miles of the reservoir. The women declined to appear on camera but say the water in their bathtubs was a yellow color.

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Credit: Manatee County | CW44 News At 10
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University of Florida researchers studying water samples from Piney Point in Manatee County
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Piney Point Wastewater Leak in Florida
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Credit: Manatee County | CW44 News At 10
Florida News - March 30, 2021
March 30, 2021, PALMETTO, Florida, USA: A view of a phosphogypsum stack, far, background, and water management at HRK Holdings’ property off Buckeye Road on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in Palmetto, Manatee County, where wastewater is suspected to be leaking at the old Piney Point phosphate plant in Palmetto, records show. Florida environmental officials are allowing HRK Holdings to discharge some of the water at Port Manatee on Tampa Bay to prevent “a potential catastrophic failure.” The emergency order from the Department of Environmental Protection comes after HRK Holdings reported last Thursday that it had found a leak at the site, a state spokeswoman said. (Credit Image: © Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via ZUMA Wire)

On April 12, Manatee County Utilities Department issued a statement claiming that people in Parish and Palmetto may notice discolored water but it's safe to drink. It says the discolored water comes as the result of modifications being made to the water treatment process in recent months. County officials say the water discoloration and treatment has no connection to Piney Point, but some affected residents say they are still skeptical.

At a Manatee County Commission meeting on Tuesday, members asked Manatee County Utilities for a complete report on drinking water surrounding the Piney Point area and how much it would cost to expand the company's services further East.

At the meeting, Commissioner James Satcher posited, "The houses that are near Piney Point are in a different situation. If you're at home, you have to put yourself in their shoes. If your home was next to Piney Point, you'd have a little more concern about drinking your well-water than others would."

The county also approved an agreement for the construction of an injection well to locate Piney Point water that had been processed and cleaned. The agreement is with Youngquist Brothers, LLC for more than $9 million dollars.

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