Officials in Florida on Sunday warned of a 20 foot wall of wastewater and ‘catastrophic flooding’ after a significant leak at a large pond threatened to burst a system that stores polluted water.
Governor Ron DeSantis took part in an aerial tour of the site and later held a press conference after more than 300 homes were evacuated near the large reservoir in the Tampa Bay area north of Bradenton Saturday.
He was joined by Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes, who warned: ‘So if you are in an evacuation area and you have not heeded that, you need to think twice and follow the orders.’
Gov. DeSantis confirmed authorities in the state are ‘trying to prevent a real catastrophic flood situation’ with 340 million gallons of wastewater that still could be released.
The governor said the water ‘is not radioactive’ but said that 100,000 bottles of drinking water have been shipped to the area.
He also confirmed Sunday 316 homes have been evacuated and told those residents in the area to call 311 if they need help with emergency shelter.
Gov. DeSantis had already declared a state of emergency Saturday following the significant leak.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says a break was detected Friday in one of the walls of a 77-acre pond that has a depth of 25 feet and holds millions of gallons of water containing phosphorus and nitrogen from an old phosphate plant.
Officials brought in rocks and materials to plug the hole in the pond late Friday into Saturday, but the attempt was unsuccessful.
Hopes said at a press conference Saturday that the most pressing concern is that the water could flood the area, which he said was agricultural and low in population density.
Due to a possible breach of mixed saltwater from the south reservoir at the Piney Point facility, I have declared a State of Emergency for Manatee County to ensure resources are allocated for necessary response & recovery.— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) April 3, 2021
‘We are talking about the potential of about 600 million gallons (2.3 billion liters) within a matter of seconds and minutes leaving that retention pool and going around the surrounding area,’ Hopes had said.
The site has long been considered ‘one of the biggest environmental threats in Florida history,’ according to the Florida Phoenix.
Today I joined state officials in Manatee County who are actively responding to Piney Point and deploying all necessary resources. Please follow @FLSERT and @FLDEPNews for updates and monitor local alerts and evacuation orders. https://t.co/ACdrUdOkpO pic.twitter.com/ayOGoLR3Oo— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) April 4, 2021
Piney Point’s previous owner, Mulberry Corp., had long declared bankruptcy and abandoned the plant, the Florida Phoenix reported.
HRK Holdings bought it for $4.3 million from Mulberry Corp. in 2006 as part of bankruptcy proceedings.
Since then, HRK has ‘been in and out of bankruptcy’ itself, the Florida Phoenix reported. HRK did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.