Amid wastewater overflow threat, Florida officials urge residents to heed evacuation orders

Amid wastewater overflow threat, Florida officials urge residents to heed evacuation orders

04 April 2021 Sunday 13:28
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Amid wastewater overflow threat, Florida officials urge residents to heed evacuation orders

The wastewater is coming from a violation in a former phosphate processing plant.

Florida officials are urging residents in the surrounding areas of a wastewater storage pond to heed evacuation orders ahead of a possible flow of polluted water.

On Fridaythe Manatee County Public Safety Department warned of an"imminent threat" of an uncontrolled release of wastewater in the former Piney Point phosphate processing plant in Palmetto following a breach was discovered in one of the walls of the southern globe, which holds about 800 million gallons of water containing phosphorus and nitrogen.

A estimated 390 million gallons of water remained in the pond at Saturday morning, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Residents inside a 1-mile radius of the plant were ordered to evacuate, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Saturday at Manatee County and neighboring Hillsborough and Pinellas counties across the threat.

Officials are attempting to stop"a real catastrophic flood situation" by ensuring the quality of the pile system as promptly as possible, DeSantis told reporters during a press conference Sunday.

The pond where the flow was discovered comprises stacks of phosphogypsum, a radioactive byproduct from fabricating fertilizer, according to the Associated Press. Additionally, it contains small amounts of naturally occurring radium and uranium, as well as the piles can discharge large concentrations of radon gas as well.

Controlled discharges in the reservoir of about 30 million gallons per day began on Tuesday, DeSantis said. Florida's National Guard is in the process of dropping pumps off to redirect the water into surrounding regions.

"As stated by onsite engineers, a controlled release was necessary so as to prevent a catastrophic collapse," DeSantis said.

The water being discharged is largely seawater in the Port Manatee dredge job, process water and storm water, officials said. The water fulfills"water quality criteria for marine waters with the exception of pH, total phosphorus, total nitrogen and total ammonia nitrogen," according to the Florida DEP. The water is slightly acidic but not to some concerning or toxic degree, officials said.

The concerns for the quality of the water being discharged are now"less than the risk of everyone's health and security" because of the possibility of flood, DeSantis said Sunday. Over 300 houses have been evacuated, '' he added.

Following the threat is mitigated, the wall won't be mended, and all the holding ponds on the property is going to be drained of water and likely stuffed, Hopes said during the media conference on Sunday. The issue has been"ongoing for decades," he added.

"This could have been solved over two years ago," Hopes said.

DeSantis pledged to maintain HRK Holdings, the owners of their property, accountable for its collapse.

"It's not acceptable," DeSantis said.

Jeff Barath, manager for HRK Holdings at Piney Point, held back tears while briefing Manatee County commissioners about the incident Thursday, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

"This is my area, also," Barath explained. "And we are doing everything possible to avoid a genuine catastrophe, which are the failure of the stack system"

ABC News could not instantly reach a representative for HRK Holdings for comment.



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