1. Archive


1966: Borden Chemical Co. builds Piney Point plant. First of five owners, several of which are caught dumping waste into nearby Bishop Harbor and releasing toxic gas into the air.

1993: French investor Judas Azuelos purchases Piney Point and sister plant in Polk County as Mulberry Corp. for $13-million, assuming millions in debt.

1994: DEP fines Piney Point $135,000 for letting gyp stack leak contamination into underground water. By 1997, DEP reduces penalty to $12,000.

1995: DEP employees note that Piney Point's owners likely to flunk new financial test for gyp stack owners. Company repeatedly delays submitting documents, with no penalty.

1997: Heavy rains cause dam break at sister plant in Polk County. Waste flowing into Alafia River causes massive fish kill. Meanwhile, Piney Point struggles with high water.

1998: Piney Point persuades DEP to allow emergency dumping of wastewater into Bishop Harbor.

JAN. 2000: Mulberry Corp. notifies creditors of financial problems and plant shutdown.

APRIL 2000: Mulberry Corp. files unaudited financial reports. DEP does not object for eight months.

DEC. 4, 2000: DEP notifies Piney Point that its permit renewal will be denied, partly because of failure to submit audited financial reports.

DEC. 20, 2000: DEP inspector discovers Piney Point on verge of having power shut off for failure to pay electric bills.

JAN. 28, 2001: Piney Point owners notify DEP its financial woes prevent them from providing environmental security of gyp stacks in Manatee and Polk counties. Within 48 hours, company abandons plants. One week later company files for bankruptcy.

FEB. 7, 2001: EPA takes over Mulberry and Piney Point plants, replaced two weeks later by DEP.

SEPT. 14, 2001: Tropical Storm Gabrielle dumps more than 18 inches of rain on area, filling the Piney Point gyp stacks.

OCT. 16, 2001: DEP Secretary David Struhs signs emergency order allowing dumping of Piney Point water into Bishop Harbor.

NOV. 21, 2001: DEP halts pumping after 10-million gallons when Tampa Bay area officials question water quality, lack of notification.

JULY 2002: DEP tries reverse osmosis to treat waste, but problems occur and questions arise about the byproduct.

JULY 25, 2002: Cargill takes over cleanup at old Mulberry plant in Polk County. DEP will pay Cargill $25-million for the cleanup.

NOVEMBER 2002: DEP begins to close the stack permanently.

DEC. 31, 2002: A New Year's Eve storm drops 16.5 inches of rain on the area. DEP suspends closure effort and fills pond back up.

FEBRUARY 2003: DEP formally asks EPA for emergency permission to dump wastewater in Gulf of Mexico.

MARCH: DEP finds algae blooms in Bishop Harbor, but continues discharging treated wastewater there.

APRIL 3: EPA Administrator Christie Whitman approves the gulf dumping permit.

JUNE 27: DEP signs contract with H&H of New York to carry Piney Point waste to gulf.