On Saturday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in the area.
Regional officials said the lake, located on the site of Piney Point phosphate processing, “had significant leaks,” according to CBS-based organization WTSP-TV. The Manatee County Department of Public Safety has told people close to the plant to evacuate because “it’s almost time to dump its wastewater.”
“Part of the content wall in the leak area has changed over time,” said Manatee Public Safety Director Jake Saur, “indicating that building collapse could happen at any time.”
The Manatee Department of Public Safety initially sent emergency evacuation notices on Friday to those within a mile of Piney Point, and at 11am on Saturday, evacuation orders were given to people one kilometer north and the reservoirs of phosphogypsum – manure and mineral waste. Roads around the road are also closed to traffic.
Mandatory evacuation was added another half a mile west and one mile southwest of the site on Saturday evening. The Manatee County Department of Public Safety said 316 families were in a state of emergency evacuation.
In a press conference Sunday morning, DeSantis said officials were pumping out 33 million gallons of water a day into the lake, and that the water was “not radioactive,” although another official added that the water “was not the water we wanted to see leave.” site. “The main concern,” says DeSantis, is the composition of the water components, which contain metals. Reports on water samples should be available in the coming days.
The Wastewater Dam Leaks
This aerial photograph taken from the aircraft shows the storage area near the old Piney Point phosphate mine, on Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Bradenton, Florida.
TIFFANY TOMPKINS / IBRADENTON HERALD VIA AP
“We hope we can continue to pump water properly to prevent a catastrophic event,” DeSantis said.
Officials say at the meeting that the biggest threat right now is flooding. Even after the days of pumping water into the lake, there are still some 3,450 million gallons of sewage that can be pumped suddenly.
Should the dam collapse completely, one model shows that the area could see a “20-meter water wall” within minutes, said acting Manatee County manager Scott Hopes.
Phosphogypsum “radioactive waste” left over from phosphate ore processing has become a viable fertilizer, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
“In addition to the high concentration of radioactive material, phosphogypsum and contaminated water can also contain carcinogens and toxic metals,” the center said in a statement on Saturday. “For every ton of phosphoric acid produced, the fertilizer industry produces 5 tons of radioactive phosphogypsum waste, which is stored in mountainous containers hundreds of acres [100 ha] wide and 100 feet [100 m] long.”
Manatee Regional Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said in a statement on Saturday that “the public must heed the warning to avoid injury.”
Water is currently being pumped out by officials to avoid a complete collapse of seawater mixes from the local project, storm water and rainwater runoff. The water has not been treated.
“Water meets the quality standards of seawater other than pH, total phosphorus, total nitrogen and ammonia nitrogen,” the state said in a statement. “It’s a small acid, but not at the level that is expected to be irritating, and it is not expected to be toxic.”
Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried wrote a letter to DeSantis on Saturday urging an emergency session of the Florida Cabinet to discuss the situation. He wrote that the leaking water was “dirty, with the rays of dirty water,” and noted that the leak did not start locally.
“For more than 50 years, this Central Florida mining campaign has created many Health and Environmental disasters,” Fried wrote. “There have been many, well-documented failures – which continue today – on the building’s dam, including leaks, illegal steels, holes, cracks and weaknesses that existed prior to the purchase by the current owner, HRK Holdings, and have increased since then.”