USF St. Petersburg campus Honors Program Theses (Undergraduate)

First Advisor

Melanie Riedinger-Whitmore, Ph.D. Professor, College of Arts and Sciences

Second Advisor

Raymond Arsenvault, Ph.D. Professor, College of Arts and Sciences

Third Advisor

Peter Swarzenski, Ph.D. Geochemist, United States Geological Survey


University of South Florida St. Petersburg

Document Type


Date Available


Publication Date


Date Issued



The Piney Point Phosphate Facility declared bankruptcy in late 2000, and in doing so left the state with the "gravest environmental threat ever" in the words of Assistant Director of the Department of Environmental Protection Alan Bidwell. The company that owned Piney Point, Mulberry Phosphate Inc., formed in 1993 with investor capital and management formed from several long term industry executives and phosphate investors. The new conglomerate pledged to run the plant with environmental awareness at all times, in compliance with local and national laws. Mulberry Phosphates Inc. purchased both Piney Point and a still operational mining plant at Mulberry, Florida (the Mulberry Facility). Within three years of its new ownership, the facility in Mulberry experienced a dike failure at a wastewater containment pond and 55 million gallons of highly acidified wastewater flowed into the Alafia River. In four hours, this industrial process water contaminated several miles of the Alafia;, According to the Department of Environmental Protection, nearly all fish and aquatic vegetation within this zone were killed. The company was assessed several million dollars for natural resource damages, and warned that litigation would follow if plant operations and oversight were not improved. What to this day remains unclear is how a company already under public and governmental scrutiny was able to only sporadically operate, make no substantive public improvements to their facilities, and within five years, declare bankruptcy and abandon the plants. Among the consequences was a towering lagoon of wastewater threatening to overflow its earthen berm after a strong rain, and discharge as much as one billion gallons of nutrient and metal rich acidic wastewater into Bishop's Harbor and Greater Tampa Bay.


A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the University Honors Program, University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

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