Florida Piney Point reservoir's 'imminent' overflow prompts evacuation order
04 April, 2021, 10:38
The Tampa Bay Times reported that work crews attempted to shore up a breach in a wall at the former Piney Point phosphate plant Saturday morning.
More than 300 homes in the area have been ordered to be evacuated, and a motorway near the Piney Point reservoir has been closed off.
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. Manatee County Public Safety said in an alert issued Saturday afternoon, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Engineers said the structure collapse could happen any time, which would flood the area - and Tampa Bay itself - with water that contains phosphorus and nitrogen from the phosphate plant.
By 6 p.m. EDT county officials expanded the evacuation zone to include an area with about 316 homes.
Officials brought in rocks and materials to plug the hole in the pond late on Friday into Saturday, but the attempt was unsuccessful. DeSantis' declaration of a state of emergency allocates more pumps and cranes to the area.
He said a collapse could lead to "600 million gallons in a matter of seconds or minutes leaving the retention pool and going over the surrounding areas".
The owner, HRK Holdings, did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.
Phosphogypsum, the radioactive waste seeping from the site, is formed as a by-produce from fertilizer production, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It contains small amounts of naturally occurring radium and uranium, and the stacks can also release large concentrations of radon gas.
According to reports, the abandoned Piney Point plant is on the verge of an "imminent" leak that could unleash millions of gallons of acidic, radioactive water into surrounding neighborhoods.
"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.