Thursday, 17 June, 2021


Florida officials evacuate residents, discharge water to avoid ‘catastrophic flood situation’

Gov. Ron De Santis inspects a failing phosphogypsum storage site near Tampa Bay Gov. Ron De Santis inspects a failing phosphogypsum storage site near Tampa Bay
Noah Ferguson | 05 April, 2021, 06:05

He said emergency workers, assisted by the Florida National Guard, were pumping about 33 million gallons of water daily out of a wastewater reservoir at the site, which has sprung a growing leak in its plastic lining.

The evacuation order covers a half-mile radius south and a mile north of the abandoned Piney Point fertilizer plant wastewater holding reservoir, which could potentially dump hundreds of millions of gallons of wastewater on the surrounding neighborhoods, FOX 13 of Tampa reported.

Manatee County's acting administrator Scott Hopes said inmates and staff at the local jail had been moved to the second floor of the two-story building as a precaution.

"For more than fifty years, this Central Florida mining operation has caused numerous human health and environmental disasters and incidents, including evacuations from sulfuric acid leaks, deaths of multiple employees, the release of more than 1 billion gallons of contaminated wastewater, and ongoing, regular gypsum stack and reservoir leaks from poor construction and maintenance that released heavy metals and pollutants into the region's water and soil", Fried writes.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says the water "meets water quality standards for marine waters with the exception of pH, total phosphorus, total nitrogen and total ammonia nitrogen".

Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in Manatee County on Saturday because of a leak at a wastewater storage pond, the collapse of which officials called "imminent".

State officials said no sources of drinking water were at risk. "It is slightly acidic, but not at a level that is expected to be a concern".

In response, residents near the reservoir have been ordered to evacuate as crews work to pump water out and avoid a deluge.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gestures during a news conference Sunday, April 4, at the Manatee County Emergency Management office in Palmetto, Fla.

Hopes said he hoped the emergency would inspire a permanent fix for phosphate stacks following decades of neglect.

Hopes says that if the pond collapses, there is a risk it could destabilise the walls of other areas in the plant.

Parts of US-41 have also been closed due to the breach.

But "we are not out of the critical area yet", he warned.

Manatee County, the state and HRK Holdings, who now owns the property, have worked for years in finding a solution.

Hopes said he could not rule out that a full breach could destabilize the walls of the other ponds at the Piney Point site.

"The pond is basically salt water".

Phosphogypsum, the radioactive waste seeping from the site, is formed as a by-produce from fertilizer production, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"This is my community, too", Barath said.

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