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Piney Point engineer warned DEP last year about ‘high risk’ of water breach, letter shows

An engineering firm warned the Department of Environmental Protection last March of a potential “uncontrolled release” of polluted water from the now-breached Piney Point phosphate stack, according to a letter obtained by 8 On Your Side.

Wood Environment and Infrastructure Solutions Engineer Glen Anderson wrote the letter, citing three issues and the elevated pond levels for creating “the potential high risk” of a breach.

“The following known and reasonably assumed conditions at the [New Gypsum Stack South (NGS-S)] present an elevated risk of containment breach and release of ponded process wastewater,” Anderson wrote.

According to Anderson, there was a “deterioration of the liner” above the stack water line, “compromised condition” of the liner below the water line and “voids” in the dikes that hold the water presented.

“The NGS-S should immediately be drained,” Anderson wrote. “And the NGS-S pond area should be modified into a stable state pending final clsoure of the entire phosphogypsum stack system.”

Wood Enronment, a third-party engineer working for site owner HRK Holdings LLC, sent the five-page letter to DEP on March 13, 2020, about 13 months before a gaping crack opened, allowing water to spew into Piney Point Creek.