Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Reporter investigating HRK, Piney Point

In the midst of bankruptcy hearings and litigation involving HRK Holdings LLC, the firm that purchased Piney Point before last year's disastrous toxic spill, Herald reporter Josh Salman has uncovered documents that point to potential negligence by the company long before the leak last summer gushed 170 million gallons of toxic water into Bishop Harbor.

Salman's first investigative report published July 6 revealed that HRK notified environmental officials of a storage liner tear at Piney Point three months before the 2011 spill.

And in today's published story, Salman reports that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection waived a stipulation for HRK to install a commonly used protective dirt coer -- after HRK agreed to assume full financial responsibility if something went awry. That dirt, experts say, might have prevented the liner cracks that caused the spill.

One note for the Herald's print readers: An error in production led to several lines dropped from the story between 1A and the jump on Page 5A. Those two paragraphs should have read:

An 11-page administrative agreement signed between HRK and the DEP waived that requirement in August 2006, according to emails and documents obtained by the Herald.

A study later commissioned by HRK found that heat-induced stress cracks had penetrated the gypsum stack liner months before it ever was filled with water, contributing to the cause of the liner tears.

That mistake certainly ruined my morning coffee. But the online version is intact, and we'll republish the missing lines Thursday.

Stay tuned for more of Salman's reports on HRK and Piney Point.

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