Gulf of Mexico
Steve Newborn / WGCU

FL - A new study shows the Piney Point spill likely made red tide worse

A new study shows that the wastewater dumped into Tampa Bay last year from the Piney Point phosphate plant likely made the subsequent outbreak of red tide much worse. It says a year's worth of nutrients flowed into the bay in 10 days.

A new study shows that the wastewater dumped into Tampa Bay last year from the Piney Point phosphate plant likely made the subsequent outbreak of red tide much worse. It says a year's worth of nutrients flowed into the bay in 10 days.

The study published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin shows that about 180 metric tons of nitrogen poured into the bay from a leak at the phosphate plant. Those nutrients fueled the growth of algae called cyanobacteria. It essentially "fed" red tide when it entered Tampa Bay from the Gulf several weeks later — killing millions of fish and marine life.

"What we think happened is because the nutrients were around, it was available for the red tide," said Marcus Beck of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, , the study's lead author. "It just created this set of conditions that prompted the growth of the red tide to levels that we hadn't really seen in the bay — in that part of the bay, specifically — since 1971."

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