Economy

Florida works to avoid "catastrophic" pond collapse

Florida works to avoid

Work crews were pumping millions of gallons of contaminated wastewater into an ecologically sensitive Florida bay on Sunday, as they tried to prevent the "imminent" collapse of a storage reservoir at an old phosphate mine. "So public health and safety is the top priority, and obviously, we want to protect in a way that minimizes any of the environmental impacts".

Residents within a 1-mile radius of the plant were ordered to evacuate, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Saturday in Manatee County as well as neighboring Hillsborough and Pinellas counties over the threat.

The pond where the leak was discovered contains stacks of phosphogypsum, a radioactive byproduct from manufacturing fertilizer, according to the Associated Press. The pond contains small amounts of naturally occurring radium and uranium. And getting rid of 800 million gallons of toxic water isn't easy like State Representative Will Robinson said in December.

The Florida National Guard was deploying additional pumps by air at the site to drain the reservoir into local waterways against a catastrophic collapse, he added.

County officials say well water remains unaffected and there is no threat to Lake Manatee, the area's primary source of drinking water. "The water meets water quality standards for marine waters with the exception primarily of the phosphorus and the nitrogen", DeSantis said. The water is slightly acidic but not to a concerning or toxic level, officials said.

The governor also attempted to downplay reports that the water contained traces of radioactive materials. "Evacuate area NOW. Collapse of Piney Point stack imminent!"

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

"We're talking about the potential of about [480] million gallons, within a matter of seconds and minutes, leaving that retention pool and going around the surrounding area", Scott Hopes, the Manatee County Administrator, said Saturday.

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. The issue has been "ongoing for decades", he added.

Hopes said he hoped the emergency would inspire a permanent fix for phosphate stacks following decades of neglect.

"There have been numerous, well-documented failures - which continue today - of the property's reservoir liner, including leaks, poor welds, holes, cracks, and weaknesses that existed prior to purchase by the current owner, HRK Holdings, and exacerbated since", she writes.

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

"This is my community, too", Barath said.

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