Friday, 16 April, 2021

Florida works to avoid "catastrophic" pond collapse

Florida governor declares state of emergency amid fears of reservoir collapse Florida declares state of emergency over toxic wastewater leak
Cecil Davis | 05 April, 2021, 13:19

In a news conference Sunday, DeSantis said state and federal emergency teams are on stand-by at the Piney Point Reservoir.

Emergency workers in Florida are trying to prevent the collapse of a large wastewater pond while evacuating the area to avoid a "catastrophic flood", the state's governor said.

Emergency evacuation notices were released Friday evening, and locals living within a 1 mile radius have been asked to evacuate. A local jail in the area is not being evacuated but they are moving people and staff to the second story and putting sandbags on the ground floor.

Manatee County's acting administrator Scott Hopes said authorities were looking to permanently empty reservoirs at the site.

Manatee County officials have ordered a "complete evacuation" of the area, including 316 homes.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the water in the pound is mostly saltwater mixed with stormwater and wastewater.

As such, it has a high phosphorous and nitrogen level, not to mention, acidic.

A significant leak at a large pond of wastewater threatened to flood roads and burst a system that stores polluted waters.

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"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".

Currently, about 22,000 gallons of water are being discharged per minute, but Hopes said he expects the risk of collapse to decrease by Tuesday. 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.

When there is a surplus in phosphate level, the pond water loses clarity and turns out to be polluted by what's described as murky green overcast.

Crews are now working to move water out of the reservoir as fast as possible, but it could take more than a week. "We are not out of the critical area yet", he nonetheless warned.

Florida's Department of Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Noah Valenstein told the Tampa Bay Times the potential environmental disaster's primary threat is to human health.

"The radiologicals are still below surface water discharge standards", he said. "We can take care of nutrients in the environment ..."

DeSantis vowed to hold HRK Holdings, the owners of the property, accountable for the failure.

The pond where the leak was found is in a stack of phosphogypsum, a radioactive waste product from the manufacture of fertiliser. According to state authorities, the water in the breached pond is non-radioactive.