Posted at 6:27 PM ET on April 3, 2021
Here’s the latest for Friday, April 2: A train partially derailing in Taiwan; Protesters marched through southern Myanmar; No Mass on Friday at Notre Dame Cathedral; Lions receive swan eggs to mark the beginning of Easter weekend. (April 2)
BRADENTON, Florida – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency on Saturday after a significant leak in a large wastewater pond threatened to flood roads and burst a system that stores contaminated water.
Florida officials evacuated homes and closed a highway Saturday near a large reservoir in the Tampa Bay area north of Bradenton. Residents living a mile north and a half miles south of the lake received a warning in a text saying they should leave the area immediately, as the collapse is “inevitable”.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said Friday that a breach was discovered in one of the walls of a 77-acre lake that is 25 feet deep and contains millions of gallons of water containing phosphorus and nitrogen from an old phosphate 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 on Saturday that the most pressing concern was that water could flood the area, but fortunately the population density there is low.
More ▼: Supreme Court rejects Florida fishing case in water dispute with Georgia
“We’re talking about the potential of about 600 million gallons in seconds and minutes, leaving this reservoir and going around,” Hopes said.
Workers are pumping thousands of gallons per minute to the site to reduce the volume in the event of a pond burst. 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 provides more resources for response and recovery. 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 stacks can also emit large concentrations of radon gas.
Nadezhda said that if the lake collapsed, there was a risk that it would destabilize the walls of other areas in the plant.
“It’s high time we considered a strategy”: The spike in manatee deaths in Florida is due in part to water pollution, reduced food supply
“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 lakes should be treated to reduce ammonium and other materials.
Agriculture Commissioner Nicki Fried called on the governor in a letter to convene an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss a plan, adding that the property had seen 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 piles cannot be seen from the ground, as the piles around the structure can reach up to 500 feet.
Read or share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/04/03/leak-wastewater-pond-prompts-evacuations-florida/7078758002/