Author Stephen King, who has a home near a troubled Florida factory that has spilled sewage and led to a recent evacuation order, slammed his ‘hustler’ owners, but local officials say it will be difficult to fix them to pin.
Florida officials want to hold the owners of the troubled Piney Point phosphate plant accountable that has led to a costly cleanup and concerns about ongoing leaks.
Ownership of the plant seems unlikely to be financially liable, given that they have “ one empty business after another, ” said a district official, making it difficult to establish blame on one person or entity, according to a report by the Miami Herald.
“Piney Point is what happens when you let the snipers and hustlers run wild,” King wrote on Twitter last week, shooting the owners. ‘Money talks and the environment runs.’
Millions of gallons of wastewater leaked from Piney Point, an abandoned phosphate plant near Tampa Bay, causing hundreds of homes to be evacuated and a state of emergency declared over the weekend.
Florida lawmakers have proposed spending $ 200 million to clean up and close the reservoir amid concerns of another catastrophic failure in the future.
Author Stephen King is one of those who criticize the owners of Piney Point
Wastewater spews from a pipe in a ditch near Port Manatee, where a breach in a nearby wastewater reservoir at the site of a defunct phosphate plant forced an evacuation order for hundreds of homes
This still image from video shows the breach in the containment wall of the Piney Point Reservoir; officials warned that a more catastrophic breach would engulf the area
According to the report, the plant is owned by a shell company, HRK Holdings, which has gone out of business since an earlier spill at the site in 2011.
The Miami Herald reports that HRK’s principal owner – William “Mickey” F. Harley III – is a Wall Street executive and former hedge fund manager.
A Forbes 2004 profile described Harley as a “vulture, investing in troubled companies that fall into or avoid Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection through out-of-court restructuring.”
Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge said Miami Herald he wants the owner of the plant to be held accountable.
“I would love to tie them up, but the reality is they have one empty company after another. These guys are rich and smart and they know what they are doing. ‘
Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge, left, wants the owners of the Piney Point wastewater treatment plant to be held accountable after a massive environmental disaster there. William F. (Mickey) Harley III is the primary owner of HRK Holdings, according to the Miami Herald, a shell company that owns Piney Point
This image shows the breach in the containment wall of the Piney Point Reservoir. This 77-hectare pond contained 480 million liters of water just 2 weeks ago. Now it is less than 300 million gallons as emergency disposal efforts continue
Best-selling author King has a home in Sarasota, Florida, which is adjacent to Manatee County, where the Farm Factory is located.
Forbes describes Harley as a former shoe factory foreman who came across a job on Wall Street in the early 1990s.
He has since owned a string of Hooters franchises, was president of a mining company in Namibia, and invested in cannabis and blueberry businesses.
In an online bio, Harley is described as a ‘farmer at heart’.
Harley did not respond to the newspaper’s request for comment.
An unidentified foam collects on the reeds where wastewater flows from a pipe into a drainage ditch at Port Manatee South Gate Tuesday
A satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows a breached retaining wall of a wastewater storage pond, at Piney Point
Through his firm HRK Holdings, Harley bought the former phosphate plant in 2006 for $ 4.3 million in 2006 from a company called DEP, the Miami Herald reported.
DEP had bought the plant from a previous owner, Mulberry Corp, when it went bankrupt in 2001.
DEP planned to shut down the site with tax money, but new owner HRK instead had a plan to stock dredging shed on the site.
The Herald reported that, as part of the sale, DEP asked the new owner to cover an exposed phosphate layer with a layer of dirt, a process that would cost $ 4 million.
But the deal was later dropped due to an agreement HRK made with the Port of Manatee to dredge the site.
The Herald reported that HRK and the Port of Manatee had to take out a $ 2 million insurance policy, which was never purchased.
The dredged material from the port of Manatee – which was intended to cover the hazardous material – was delayed.
Then in 2011, a month after 1.1 million cubic feet of material was deposited at the phosphate mine, a liner fault caused 170 million gallons of toxic waste in Tampa Bay’s Bishop Harbor.
Amid a series of lawsuits, HRK filed for bankruptcy, claiming it could not afford to pay for the environmental cleanup.
With a debt of $ 26 million, it sold parts of the factory.
The Florida National Guard is seen pumping to the reservoir on Sunday
According to published reports, it wasn’t Harley’s first brush with lawsuits.
According to Newsday, Harley, and a hedge fund he managed were sued by Pittsburgh nonprofit The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.
The foundation had invested $ 2 million in a fund managed by Harley in 2004.
During the 2008 financial crisis, Harley said the fund was being phased out and the investment would be paid back.
The lawsuit alleged that Harley had returned money to other investors, but not to the foundation.
The matter was handled confidentially.
Neither Harley, nor a location manager for HRK, responded to requests for comment from the Herald.
The last environmental shock started on Saturday. when toxic wastewater entered the Piney Point reservoir.
Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency and ordered the evacuation of 300 homes near the large reservoir.
The evacuation order for residents and businesses around a waste water reservoir was lifted on Tuesday afternoon.
Some wastewater is still leaking from the reservoir, but officials said seepage rates had dropped so it was now safe for residents to return to their homes and businesses.
Some inmates from a district prison were also taken to an undisclosed location by buses, while others were moved to higher floors in the facility.