Florida working to avoid 'catastrophic' wastewater reservoir collapse

MIAMI GARDENS FLORIDA- JANUARY 06 Florida Governor Ron De Santis speaks during a press conference about the opening of a COVID-19 vaccination site at the Hard Rock Stadium

Residents who live around the Piney Point reservoir received an alert via text saying to leave the area immediately because the collapse was "imminent". Manatee County officials said at one point that an ongoing breach there has the potential to gush out a 20-foot-high wall of water - but as of Monday afternoon, around 300 million gallons remain and the threat of a full breach could be contained within 48 hours as crews drain the pond.

DeSantis on Saturday declared a state of emergency in Manatee, Hillsborough, and Pinellas counties against the possibility as state and local officials oversaw evacuations.

The large reservoir at the Piney Point plant is leaking most likely due to a tear in the pond's liner.

That's what would happen within minutes if wall around the retention pond is fully breached, the acting county administrator said; as the Tampa Bay Times reports, efforts to fix the breach causing the leak have so far been unsuccessful. Ron DeSantis said Sunday that state officials are hoping to prevent a "catastrophic event" as they pump water out of a reservoir near a decommissioned phosphate plant amid concerns it may collapse.

The water being discharged from Piney Point is a mix of sea water from the Port Manatee dredge project, process water and storm water, officials said.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says the water in the pond is primarily saltwater mixed with wastewater and stormwater. Instead, "we will be depleting the holding ponds of their water, and then we will be moving forward to a permanent solution into the future", he 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.

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

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.

"Looking at the water that has been removed and the somewhat stability of the current breach, I think the team is much more comfortable today than we were yesterday", he said. We saw ducks yesterday, there are snooks swimming in there.

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

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

Justin Bloom, founder of the Sarasota-based nonprofit group Suncoast Waterkeeper, said in a statement Sunday that "we hope the contamination is not as bad as we fear, but are preparing for significant damage to Tampa Bay and the communities that rely on this precious resource".

"The pond is basically salt water".

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