For anglers, Florida is home to world-class saltwater fishing, as well as exhilarating canal and lake fishing for bass and many other species of gamefish. Whether its sight fishing rolling tarpon or casting into tight mangroves for snook, the sunshine state is a fishing Mecca.
Florida also has a problem. The incredible fishing and clear blue seas are under threat, from an abandoned phosphate plant.
Piney Point, a community in the Tampa Bay region, is where this now-famous phosphate plant resides. The issue is pollution. The initial warning was a catastrophe alert, beginning with a leak in one of the plant’s storage ponds. Over 300 homes were evacuated in the event of a rupture and a wall of water pushing through the area.
Luckily, the threat was avoided, Manatee County officials averting the flood by slowly draining the pond into Tampa Bay, at a rate of 35 million gallons per day.
The leaking pond resides in a large stack of phosphogypsum, which is a waste product of fertilizer production. This particular waste product is radioactive. Florida’s agriculture commissioner warns of a possible environmental catastrophe, and with good reason. The toxins flowing into Tampa Bay may well cause more lethal red tide algae blooms, endangering local fish and wildlife.
Luckily, a flood was avoided, and it seems the end of the Piney Point situation is near. The event is being seen as a wake up call for environmentally safe mine deposits. If Alaska’s proposed Pebble Mine had the same issue it would be a much bigger event, with more toxins affecting thousands of salmon and other fish and wildlife of Bristol Bay. Humans and fish alike can experience severe consequences from mining deposits and ponds like the one in Piney Point. To protect the fish that give us entertainment, food, healthy waters and tradition, it’s in the best interests of anglers to observe the flaw in this type of mining and advocate for something better.
Ryan Rintala | Social Media @mattheronflyfishing