Florida working to avoid 'catastrophic' wastewater reservoir collapse

Joanna Estrada
April 5, 2021

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says a break was detected on Friday in one of the walls of a 33ha pond that has a depth of 8m and holds millions of gallons of water containing phosphorus and nitrogen from an old phosphate plant.

According to PBS News Hour, Manatee County officials said the latest models demonstrate that a breach at the old phosphate plant reservoir is likely to gush out about 340 gallons of water in just a few minutes, endangering a 20-foot high-water wall.

"All residents impacted should heed local evacuation orders", he wrote.

Using two pipes, 22,000 gallons per minute are being drawn "into a substantial drainage ditch which has conduits underneath two railroad tracks and then empties in a pipe to the seawall", said Scott Hopes, Manatee County administrator.

Following the detection, officials started evacuating homes and closed off a highway near the reservoir. "It is slightly acidic, but not at a level that is expected to be a concern".

Authorities are working to plug the hole and pumping water to ease the pressure in the pond, but have warned that dirty water could spill into the community. A portion of the containment wall in the reservoir shifted, meaning a collapse could occur at any time.

He specified the radiological is still lower than the surface water discharge standards.

"Teams on the ground are laser-focused on addressing this issue, and I have directed Secretary Valenstein to work with Manatee County and utilize all available resources to form a permanent solution to this longstanding issue", said Desantis.

Emergency crews in central Florida were working Sunday to prevent an environmental catastrophe at a leaking reservoir that risked sending millions of gallons of contaminated wastewater toward nearby homes and into the Tampa Bay. "We are not out of the critical area yet".

National conservation group the Center for Biological Diversity also released a statement calling for the US Environmental Protection Agency to intervene.

"This is not acceptable and it's not something we will allow to persist", he said, adding that he has ordered the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation to find a permanent fix at the site.

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

The pond where the leak was discovered contains stacks of phosphogypsum, a radioactive byproduct from manufacturing fertilizer, according to the Associated Press.

"The pond is basically salt water". Some algal blooms can also harm people who come into contact with polluted waters or eat tainted fish.

There are at least 70 gypsum stacks in the U.S. and about 27 in Florida, mostly in the region of west-central Florida.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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