Economy

Florida Works to Avoid 'Catastrophic' Pond Collapse

Florida Works to Avoid 'Catastrophic' Pond Collapse”

The ponds sit in stacks of phosphogypsum, a solid, radioactive byproduct from manufacturing fertilizer.

A wastewater reservoir near Tampa is at great risk of collapsing and flooding the area with hundreds of millions of gallons of toxic water.

PHOTO: Rep. Will Robinson speaks during a press conference regarding a possible leak near the old Piney Point phosphate plant site in Palmetto, Fla., April 2, 2021.

"For more than fifty years, this Central Florida mining operation has caused numerous human health and environmental disasters and incidents, including evacuations from sulfuric acid leaks, deaths of multiple employees, the release of more than 1 billion gallons of contaminated wastewater, and ongoing, regular gypsum stack and reservoir leaks from poor construction and maintenance that released heavy metals and pollutants into the region's water and soil", Fried writes. As of Sunday, it held about 300 million gallons.

Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency over the county Saturday.

It could take between 10 to 12 days for the situation to stabilize, Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes said Saturday.

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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 water being discharged is mostly seawater from the Port Manatee dredge project, process water and storm water, officials said.

"Evacuate area NOW. Collapse of Piney Point stack imminent!"

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 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. "The water meets water quality standards for marine waters with the exception primarily of the phosphorus and the nitrogen", DeSantis said. Now about 22,000 gallons of water are being discharged per minute, and Hopes said he expects the risk of collapse to decrease by Tuesday. "The State is committed to holding HRK and all involved parties accountable". State authorities say the water in the breached pond is not radioactive.



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