In the aftermath of the toxic wastewater leak at Piney Point that allowed for a massive red tide bloom in Tampa Bay this past summer, Representative Ben Diamond (D- St. Petersburg) and Senator Jeff Brandes (R- St. Petersburg) have filed legislation to improve the abatement efforts of imminent hazards caused by phosphogypsum stacks in Florida.
Should an imminent hazard exist for a phosphogypsum stack, HB 1339 and SB 1744 require the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to notify the Florida Division of Emergency Management, county emergency management offices, and the board of county commissioners of the county within which the stack is located within 24 hours.
“To prevent environmental catastrophes like what happened at Piney Point and the red tide bloom in Tampa Bay that followed, we have to be honest with Floridians and the local governments that serve them about the imminent hazards posed by phosphogypsum stacks,” said Representative Ben Diamond. “It is vital that our constituents have as much time as possible to prepare for the potential consequences of these environmental and health hazards. Our legislation will ensure local governments and the citizens of our state can easily access information about these risks before they wash up on our shores.”
The legislation also directs the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to create and maintain an online database, accessible to the public, that lists all phosphogypsum stacks in the state by county, along with summaries of inspections, imminent hazards, abatement actions, and material violations.
“Sunshine is the best disinfectant,” said Senator Jeff Brandes. “Florida has a history of valuing transparency in government. This is an issue best resolved with transparency and public accountability.”
“The public, and our elected officials at all levels of government, have a right to know when their community is in imminent danger,” said Aliki Moncrief, Executive Director, Florida Conservation Voters. “Thank you to Rep. Ben Diamond for putting safety first for Florida’s families and neighborhoods. Transparency, accountability, and communication are necessary to properly protect human health, especially in the face of ongoing large-scale environmental disasters like Piney Point.”