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Zachary T. Sampson - Environment Reporter

Environment Reporter

I grew up in Rhode Island, on a bay similar to Tampa's. I'm fascinated by where we're from — how places shape us and we shape them. In Florida, our life turns on nature, from the gulf to rivers and flatwoods and swamps. I want my coverage to be just as expansive. Do you have a place to show me or a story to tell? Reach out. I'm friendlier than my face suggests. We can also talk about baseball, but it might be hard to get me to stop.

  1. A drone image shows a partially drained wastewater reservoir at Piney Point, with Tampa Bay visible in the distance.
  2. Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses the situation at Piney Point at a press conference in Manatee County on April 4.
  3. A model from researchers at the University of South Florida simulates the first days of a pollutant plume off Piney Point.  Orange and yellow indicate higher concentrations.
  4. Effluent flows from a pipe into a drainage ditch at Port Manatee South Gate on Tuesday across from the old Piney Point phosphate plant property.
  5. Effluent flows from a pipe into a drainage ditch at Port Manatee South Gate on Tuesday, April 6, 2021.
  6. Seasonal algae floats in the water off Port Manatee on Tuesday as wastewater is released from the old Piney Point phosphate plant into Tampa Bay. Evacuation orders were ended as the risk of an immediate crisis appears to have subsided. A nearby stretch of U.S. 41 that had been closed for days between Manatee and Hillsborough counties was also reopened, another signal of improving conditions at the site.
  7. Congressman Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, addresses the media Monday about the crisis at the former Piney Point phosphate plant, along with Manatee County officials.
  8. Aerial view looking toward Tampa Bay from Piney Point on Sunday in Palmetto.
  9. Aerial view overlooking the site of the Piney Point wastewater release on Sunday, April 4, 2021 in Palmetto.
  10. A view of a phosphogypsum stack at HRK Holdings’ property off Buckeye Road on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in Palmetto, Manatee County, where wastewater is suspected to be leaking at the old Piney Point phosphate plant in Palmetto, records show.
  11. Acting Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes discusses how high the flood of polluted waters could rise due to an “imminent” collapse at the old Piney Point phosphate plant during a Saturday news conference at the Manatee County Emergency Operations Center in Brandeton.
  12. A view of a phosphogypsum stack complex, far background, at HRK Holdings’ property off Buckeye Road in Palmetto on Tuesday. Wastewater is suspected to be leaking there at the old Piney Point phosphate plant.
  13. A view of a phosphogypsum stack complex at HRK Holdings’ property in Palmetto on Tuesday.
  14. A view of a phosphogypsum stack at HRK Holdings’ property off U.S. 41 in Palmetto.
  15. A view of a phosphogypsum stack, far, background, and water management at HRK Holdings’ property in Palmetto.
  16. Rep. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton, speaks during a press conference regarding a leak near the old Piney Point phosphate plant site in Palmetto on Friday, April 2, 2021.
  17. A manatee swims through the water in Crystal River in 2011.
  18. On the left is a photo showing a section of the Cypress Creek Wellfield in September 1999, according to Tampa Bay Water. On the right is the same area in September 2010.
  19. A manatee inspects snorkeler Julie Barney, of Vero Beach, right, and her mother, Laura Rogers, of Vero Beach, while swimming near the entrance to Three Sisters Springs on  on Kings Bay in Crystal River in 2014.
  20. North Atlantic Right Whale #3720 and her calf. This still image is from a drone video taken by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources under NOAA Permit 20556.
  21. A group of ibis feed in a front yard designed with native plants in Tarpon Springs.
  22. Sen. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, sits at the Capitol in Tallahassee during session earlier this month.
  23. Florida has seen an alarming rise in manatee deaths in 2021.