Published: Mon, April 05, 2021
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Piney Point: Emergency crews try to plug Florida toxic wastewater leak

Piney Point: Emergency crews try to plug Florida toxic wastewater leak

Florida Gov Ron DeSantis declared a State of Emergency for Manatee County on Saturday, April 3, as officials warned of the imminent collapse of a retention pond holding hundreds of millions gallons of toxic wastewater.

Amid the heightened threat, Manatee County Public Safety Department expanded an evacuation order to hundreds of homes in the surrounding area.

"All residents impacted should heed local evacuation orders", he wrote. A local jail in the area is not being evacuated but they are moving people and staff to the second story and putting sandbags on the ground floor.

Officials brought in rocks and materials to plug the hole in the pond late on Friday into Saturday, but the attempt was unsuccessful.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the water in the pound is mostly saltwater mixed with stormwater and wastewater. Officials said the water is slightly acidic but not to a concerning or toxic level.

Controlled discharges from the reservoir of about 30 million gallons per day began on Tuesday, DeSantis said.

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, noted that the leak is not the first at the property, in a letter to DeSantis on Saturday calling on him to convene an emergency session of the Florida Cabinet.

Using two pipes, waste water is being drawn "into a substantial drainage ditch which has conduits underneath two railroad tracks and then empties in a pipe to the seawall", said Hopes.

The concerns for the quality of the water being discharged are now "less than the risk of everyone's health and safety" due to the potential for flooding, DeSantis said Sunday.

Emergency crews in central Florida were working Sunday to prevent an environmental catastrophe at a leaking reservoir that risked sending millions of gallons of contaminated wastewater toward nearby homes and into the Tampa Bay.

"The water quality issues that are flowing from this for us is less than the risk of everyone's health and safety, particularly folks who may live in the area".

The Florida DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein said another pond has higher levels of metals.

The environmentalist group said that it was never designed for stacking and should have never been permitted. "So, again this is not water we want to see leaving the site", he said.

As The Associated Press notes, the ponds "sit in stacks of phosphogypsum, a solid radioactive byproduct from manufacturing fertilizer".

But the EPA says too much nitrogen in the wastewater causes algae to grow faster, leading to fish kills. State authorities say the water in the breached pond is not radioactive.

Hopes said the plan is not to fix the damaged reservoir liner.

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