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Environment and Science

About HRK Holdings, The Owner Of Troubled Piney Point

State leaders have vowed to hold the owners of Piney Point accountable for leaks at the former phosphate plant.

But HRK Holdings has a spotty environmental and financial record.

HRK Holdings purchased the land from the state in 2006. It had been under state ownership since the previous owner went bankrupt in 2001.

HRK promised to clean up Piney Point when it bought the site from the state. Instead, it allowed Port Manatee to dump dredging waste into one of the three retention ponds.

An investigation by the Bradenton Herald found that HRK knew about a tear in the pond’s plastic lining in 2011. But the company never told county officials, and about 170 million gallons of toxic water spilled into Tampa Bay.

HRK filed for bankruptcy after the 2011 spill, saying it couldn’t afford to pay cleanup costs.

The company’s principal owner is William “Mickey” F. Harley III, a Wall Street investor whose other ventures include a Hooters franchise, a uranium mine in Namibia, and a medical marijuana business.

In September, HRK site manager Jeff Barath warned Manatee County commissioners that the ponds were reaching capacity. On April 1, sleep deprived and close to tears, he appeared before commissioners again to tell them about the breach.

“This is my community too,” Barath said. “We are doing everything possible to prevent a true catastrophe.”

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