Florida governor declares state of emergency amid fears of reservoir collapse

Tanya Simon
April 5, 2021

More than 300 homes near Tampa Bay have been evacuated, and a highway near the Piney Point reservoir has been closed. Some families were placed in local hotels.

A significant leak at a large pond of wastewater threatened to flood roads and burst a system that stores polluted waters.

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

In March, the county decided the best environmental option is to move the water from above ground to a deep water injection well 3000 feet below but that idea is still waiting for state approval and funding.

The wastewater "meets water-quality standards for marine waters", he said, with the exception of phosphorous and nitrogen levels.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is urging Gov. Ron DeSantis to convene an emergency meeting of the Florida Cabinet to discuss the evacuation of Manatee County residents and the environmental crisis at the Piney Point phosphate mine.

A wastewater reservoir near Tampa is at great risk of collapsing and flooding the area with hundreds of millions of gallons of toxic water.

Hopes, the county administrator, said Sunday that with new state resources, crews will be almost doubling the amount of water being pumped out of the pond and taken to Port Manatee.

"We won't be repairing the liner, we will be depleting the holding ponds of their water and then we will be moving forward to a permanent solution into the future once we mitigate the current risk", Hopes said.

Bradenton Fla. Florida Gov. Ron De Santis declared a state of emergency Saturday after a significant leak at a large pond of was

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

Other workers have been charting the path to control the flow of the water.

"We are not out of the critical area yet", he added. "Evacuate area NOW. Collapse of Piney Point stack imminent!"

DeSantis insisted the water being discharged has tested as not radioactive, a common byproduct of the phosphate mining process, but rather comprises a mix of saltwater, mining "legacy process water", and stormwater runoff. "So, again this is not water we want to see leaving the site", he said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a coordinator on the scene to work with emergency management and provide support as necessary, said EPA spokeswoman Brandi Jenkins.

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

In 2016, more than 200 million gallons of contaminated waste water from another fertiliser plant in central Florida leaked into one of the state's main aquifers after a massive sinkhole opened up in a pond of a phosphogypsum stack. State authorities say the water in the breached pond is not radioactive.

But the EPA says too much nitrogen in the wastewater causes algae to grow faster, leading to fish kills.

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