The governor of Florida declared a state of emergency after a significant leak of a large wastewater pond, threatened to flood roads and destroy a system that stores contaminated water
Officials in Florida have ordered more than 300 homes to be evacuated and closed off a highway Saturday near a large reservoir in the Tampa Bay area north of Bradenton.
Residents living around the Pine Point Reservoir received a text message telling them to leave the area immediately because the collapse was “inevitable.” Authorities expanded the evacuation zone later Saturday to include more homes, but said they had no plans to open shelters.
The Florida Department of the Environment says a breach was found in one of the walls of a 77-acre (33-acre) lake on Friday that is 8 meters deep and contains millions of gallons of water containing phosphorus and old phosphate nitrogen. plant.
Officials brought stones and materials to plug the hole in the lake late Friday through Saturday, but the attempt was unsuccessful.
Manati County Administrator Scott Hopes told a news conference Saturday that the most pressing concern is that water could flood the area, which he said is agricultural and low in population density.
“We’re talking about a potential of about 600 million gallons (2.3 billion liters) in seconds and minutes, leaving this reservoir and circling the surrounding area,” Hoops said.
Workers pump thousands of gallons per minute at the site to reduce the volume in case the pond bursts. Pumping the whole pond would take 10 to 12 days. Others have worked to map the road to control how water flows from the lake into Tampa Bay.
The DeSantis declaration of emergency distributes more pumps and taps in the area. The owner, HRK Holdings, did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.
The lake where the leak was found is in the old Piney Point phosphate mine, located in a pile of phosphogypsum, a waste product from the production of manure that is radioactive. It contains small amounts of naturally occurring radium and uranium, and the piles can also emit large concentrations of radon gas.
Hope says that if the lake collapses, there is a risk that it will destabilize the walls of other areas in the plant.
“The lake is basically salt water. Yesterday we saw ducks, there are floats. Supports wildlife. This does not apply to the other two basins, “he said, adding that wastewater in other reservoirs would have to be treated to reduce ammonium and other materials.
The executive order for declaring a state of emergency states that the damaged structure has 480 million gallons (1.8 billion liters) of seawater mixed with process water and bulk materials from the old fertilizer plant.
Agriculture Commissioner Nicki Fried called on the governor in a letter to convene an extraordinary session of the state cabinet to discuss a plan, adding that the property had had similar leaks in the past.
“The immediate evacuation of residents, the destruction of families over the Easter weekend and the potential environmental catastrophe require the attention and action of the elected leadership of the state of Florida,” said Fried.
In 2016, more than 200 million gallons of contaminated wastewater from another fertilizer plant in central Florida leaked into one of the major aquifers after a massive sinkhole opened in a pond of phosphogypsum.
There are at least 70 gypsum piles in the United States and about 27 in Florida, mostly in the west-central Florida region. The wastewater stored in the gypsum stacks cannot be seen from the ground, as the piles surrounding the structure can reach 150 meters.