State Of Emergency, Evacuations In Florida County Over Wastewater Pond Leak

Acting Manatee County Administrator Dr. Scott Hopes speaks during a news conference Sunday

Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in Manatee County and officials ordered a complete evacuation of the Piney Point reservoir area Saturday due to fears a decommissioned phosphate plant could collapse.

To prevent a full-fledged breach and contain spillage, local work crews on Sunday continued actively pumping tens of thousands of gallons of toxic wastewater per minute into Tampa Bay.

A local jail less than 2 km away from the 77-acre pond hasn't been evacuated, but officials are moving people and staff to the second story and putting sandbags on the ground floor.

Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes said it could take between 10 to 12 days for the situation to stabilize, according to ABC affiliate WJXX.

County officials say well water remains unaffected and there is no threat to Lake Manatee, the area's primary source of drinking water. The pond held about 480 million gallons last week. On Friday, a significant leak was detected.

© Provided by New York Daily News Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gestures during a news conference Sunday, April 4, at the Manatee County Emergency Management office in Palmetto, Fla. A portion of the containment wall in the reservoir shifted, leading officials to think a collapse could occur at any time.

"This could have been resolved over two decades ago", Hopes said.

Hundreds of Florida homes evacuated due to phosphate plant breach
In a news conference Sunday, DeSantis said state and federal emergency teams are on stand-by at the Piney Point Reservoir. There are at least 70 gypsum stacks in the USA and about 27 in Florida, mostly in the region of west-central Florida.

Crews have been discharging water since the pond began leaking in March.

"Evacuate area NOW. Collapse of Piney Point stack imminent!"

The Florida DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein said another pond has higher levels of metals. "So public health and safety is the top priority, and obviously, we want to protect in a way that minimizes any of the environmental impacts". "The water meets water quality standards for marine waters with the exception primarily of the phosphorus and the nitrogen", DeSantis said.

The owner, HRK Holdings, did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

Fried details in her letter how previously-known poor maintenance by current and former phosphate mine owners have created a unsafe situation for local residents, communities and even state-managed lands and waters.

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

Environmental groups urged the federal government this weekend to step in to halt sending more wastewater to the existing so-called gypsum stacks and halting the creation of more phosphogypsum, which is left behind when phosphate rock is mined to produce fertilizer.

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