Hundreds of residents in Manatee County, Florida, were ordered to evacuate their homes over Easter weekend as officials feared that a wastewater pond could collapse “at any time.” On Saturday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for the area.
- Floridians fear what lies ahead as wastewater continues to leak
County officials said the pond, located at the former Piney Point phosphate processing plant, had a “significant leak,” according to CBS affiliate WTSP-TV. The Manatee County Public Safety Department told people near the plant to evacuate due to an “imminent uncontrolled release of wastewater.”
“A portion of the containment wall at the leak site shifted laterally,” said Manatee Director of Public Safety Jake Saur, “signifying that structural collapse could occur at any time.”
As of Monday afternoon, the leaks have not been fixed, according to officials. Thermal imaging from a drone on Sunday night identified “a number of sites” in one concentrated area in the eastern wall of the south pond where temperatures indicated that water was seeping through. The most visible breach continues to be the one at the southeast corner.
By Monday evening, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced that reports of a second seepage “are unsubstantiated.” Engineers have “determined the site was safe to continue work,” the department said, and there remains one identified area of “concentrated seepage” from the eastern wall of the sound pond.
“The water from this seepage remains contained onsite in the site’s line stormwater management,” FLDEP said, “The uncontrolled discharge to Piney Point Creek has ceased.”
Officials are continuing their “controlled discharge” of water, at a rate of more than 35 million gallons per day.
Water sampled from the breached pond on Monday indicates that the water is not radioactive, FDLE said, and the department is collaborating with surrounding counties and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program to sample water from 11 locations and obtain water quality information.
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