MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – It is either the solution to draining some 600 million gallons of stack water from the environmental nightmare known as Piney Point or an “inexact science” that could contaminate bay area drinking water.
Deep well injection is a proven method of disposing of wastewater, according to Manatee County’s Acting Administrator Scott Hopes.
“Manatee County has been operating three of these wells, one for well over 10 years,” Hopes said. “It’s safe.”
But Jacky Lopez, Florida’s director of the Center for Biological Diversity, insists there are better methods including reverse osmosis and she theorizes the $10 million price tag is the most attractive part of the deep well proposal.
“The issue, for the industry and regulators, seems to be that the preferred technology, reverse osmosis is more expensive,” Lopez said. “If you don’t internalize all the potential negative outcomes of DWI.”
The potential problem, according to critics, is the unknown nature of the planet’s makeup that sits between the surface and 3,500 feet below. Diagrams show exact lines between the various layers, excluding the possibility of fissures, fractures, and porous areas.
Opponents says the water sent down could potentially seep back up into drinking water.
Past proposals were stopped by opposition groups including Glenn Compton’s Manasota-88.
“It’s an inexact science. I think there’s going to be a lot of opposition. Not just from our organization but from other organizations, even on the national level,” Compton said. “Quite frankly the reason it wasn’t approved before is because the opposition was loud and clear, and I think that’s going to be the case again.”
Hopes emphasizes deep wells include a pipe that carries the water, encased in layers of steel and concrete.
“It’s not going to come close to anyone’s drinking water,” Hopes said. “This needs to be closed down and that final chapter needs to be written and needs to say the end.”
The county commission approved the construction agreement for the well last month by a six to one vote, but Chairperson Vanessa Baugh acknowledged she is “still not” in favor of deep well injection.
“But I think it’s fair to say that at this point, we don’t have a choice,” she added.
Commissioner Reggie Bellamy cast the lone no vote but has not responded to requests for comment.
As Commissioner Carol Whitmore pointed out, the debate is not new. Piney Point’s bankrupt owner HRK Holdings has proposed a deep well in the past but never came even this close.
According to Hopes, the county expects to submit a permit application to the Department of Environmental Protection “within two weeks.”
That part of the process also includes a reference to Piney Point’s past.
“DEP is accepting the prior engineering from the test well done in 2013,” Hopes said. “We hired the same engineers to do the new application with the data from the prior test well, as that will be the exact site for the final well.”
If the project moves forward, the injection process would still be about a year away, Hopes said.