A class action lawsuit has been brought against HRK Holdings, LLC, after an abandoned phosphate fertilizer processing plant in Manatee County developed a “significant leak” on March 25, 2021. The leak threatens local residents with 480 million gallons of toxic wastewater and poses a further danger when part of a containment wall at the site shifted.
In an April 2, 2021, tweet, Manatee Director of Public Safety Jacob Saur issued an emergency evacuation notice to all individuals within a half-mile radius of Piney Point—including residents and a local prison—warning of the "imminent uncontrolled release of wastewater.”
Qualifying for the Piney Point Class Action Lawsuit
The following individuals qualify to join the class action lawsuit:
- Homeowners who were subject to evacuation orders and deprived of the use of their homes; and
- Suffered losses and damages in the form of economic and noneconomic damages.
Details of the Piney Point Class Action Lawsuit
According to the complaint, filed in the Twelfth Judicial Circuit of Florida Manatee County Circuit Court, the Plaintiff (and other individuals in similar circumstances) “has already suffered harm and is at imminent risk of suffering additional damage arising from Defendant’s improper maintenance of millions of pounds of pollutants near her home.”
The lawsuit contains several allegations.
- Negligence: for violating its duty of care to nearby property owners, prompting local evacuation and dumping of toxic waste into the bay, ultimately causing economic and non-economic damages;
- Negligence per se: for violation of state and federal laws regarding reservoir operation and maintenance, plus the storage of hundreds of millions of gallons of toxic wastewater;
- Strict liability: for ultrahazardous activity;
- Nuisance: for the inadequate maintenance of the reservoir, which prompted leaks that are now being pumped into the community.
Piney Point’s Story of Toxicity
The defendant HRK Holdings, LLC acquired the processing plant, which once operated as the “Piney Point” fertilizer plant, in 2006. Thereafter, the duty of maintaining the facility fell upon the defendant, who failed in this capacity, resulting in the active leak the community now faces. This community consists of more than 300 homes that lie within a one-mile radius of the reservoir.
To prevent a complete failure of the reservoir, the State of Florida has begun dumping millions of gallons of the plant’s water into Port Manatee’s harbor. A sensitive aquatic preserve, Bishop Harbor sits downstream from Piney Point and discharges into Tampa Bay, as does the water from Port Manatee.
The class action complaint details the likely composition of the reservoir water, beginning with the output of toxic waste that would have resulted from the property’s earlier use as a phosphate-based fertilizer production plant—dating back to 1966. The complaint also explains the process for mining phosphate ore in Central Florida, an undertaking that ultimately generates the radioactive waste product “phosphogypsum.” The radium in this waste decays into radon gas, which can cause cancer in individuals who suffer sufficient levels of exposure.
According to the complaint, the excess water from the plant’s production of phosphoric acid is also radioactive, and this water was at one time merely dumped into a massive, unlined pit. The facility now contains two reservoirs—including one that is lined. Together, the reservoirs represent around 800 million gallons in volume.
Attorney Mike Papantonio Discusses the Piney Point Lawsuits
Residents Harmed by the Piney Point Leak can Join the Class Action Lawsuit
Our law firm is investigating claims and accepting cases on behalf of individuals who have suffered economic and/or non-economic damages from the mismanagement of toxic wastewater at Piney Point.