Fla. county prepares for toxic waste water spill

Remigio Civitarese
Aprile 4, 2021

Evacuations have been ordered next to a wastewater holding reservoir near Tampa, Florida, because of an "imminent" uncontrolled release of water, officials said, according to reports.

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.

Residents in proximity to the Piney Point reservoir received a text message alert, with authorities expanding the evacuation area later Saturday while refraining from opening any shelters.

Manatee County, the state and HRK Holdings, who now owns the property, have worked for years in finding a solution.

He toured the scene by helicopter on Sunday morning and said at a press conference engineers were still attempting to plug breaches in the reservoir wall with rocks and other materials, and that other mitigation efforts included the controlled release of 35m gallons daily at Port Manatee. On Saturday, officials said up to 600 million gallons of toxic wastewater could suddenly flood areas near Tampa Bay. While pumping the entire reservoir of water would require approximately 10 to 12 days, workers have been rushing against time to bring the volume down. He said the long-term objective would be to entirely pump out the three reservoirs on the site and fill them in. DeSantis' declaration of a state of emergency allocates more pumps and cranes to the area.

The water is also contaminated with metals like cadmium.

The water contains small amounts of naturally occurring radium and uranium, and the stacks can also release radon gas.

DeSantis said the company operating the site, HRK Holdings, should be held accountable.

Aerial images aired on local television showed water pouring from leaks in the walls of the retention pond. We saw ducks yesterday, there are snooks swimming in there. "It's sustaining wildlife. That's not the case for the other two pools", said Hopes.

The executive order declaring the state of emergency said the breached structure has 1.8 billion liters of seawater mixed with process water and the embankment materials from the old fertiliser manufacturing plant.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried urged the governor in a letter to convene an emergency session of the state cabinet to discuss the current incident, while pointing to the fact the property had witnessed similar leaks in the past. Residents within a half-mile of the reservoir have all been evacuated.

"This is nothing that should come as any surprise to officials that have been monitoring this phosphogypsum stack", said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida Director of the Center for Biological Diversity said according to the outlet. The wastewater stored in the gypsum stacks can't be seen from the ground as the piles surrounding the structure can go as high as 150m.

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