Florida Gov. DeSantis Declares a State of Emergency as Hundreds Evacuated due to Toxic Water Waste Facility Concerns

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference at Universal Studios Wednesday, June 3, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. The Universal Studios theme park reopened today for season pass holders and will open to the general public on Friday. Bars and theme parks will be part of Florida's Phase 2 …
AP Photo/John Raoux

Florida Gov. Ron Desantis (R) declared a state of emergency and issued evacuation notices Saturday due to the uncontrollable wastewater release in Manatee County.

This weekend, the state advised hundreds of residents to evacuate their homes in Manatee County, Florida. WTSP-TV reported there was a “significant leak” at a pond located by the former Piney Point phosphate processing plant.

The Manatee director of public safety, Jake Saur, said, “A portion of the containment wall at the leak site shifted laterally. …signifying that structural collapse could occur at any time.”

On Saturday, DeSantis issued the state of emergency, saying, “due to a possible break of mixed saltwater from the south reservoir at the Piney Point facility,” he will declare “a State of Emergency for Manatee County to ensure resources are allocated for necessary response & recovery.”

DeSantis said the Manatee County Emergency Management and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection would be closely working together to coordinate a response.

The Manatee County Public Safety Department initially tweeted Friday the evacuation notice for anyone within half a mile of Piney Point. “Any persons in the half-mile radius of Piney Point. The evacuation notice was issued due to the imminent uncontrolled release of wastewater,” the tweet said.

On Saturday morning, the evacuation orders were extended to include the people within one mile north of the reservoir’s stacks of phosphogypsum, a fertilizer waste product. In addition to those within half a mile to the south of the site. Surrounding stretches of highway were also closed to traffic.
DeSantis, in a press release Sunday, said:

Our first priority is public health and safety. 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.

I have also deployed the National Guard and they are in the process of dropping off additional pumps via aircraft on top of the berms, to help decrease the water levels in the Piney Point reservoir at an even faster pace. The State is committed to holding HRK and all involved parties accountable.

The National Guard in Florida deployed to help airlifted pumps to different parts of the pond to pump water out of the containment area to minimize the volume of water and help fix the breach.

According to the official press release also said: “March 26, 2021, there were approximately 480 million gallons in the impacted NGS-South compartment,” according to the official press release. “As of this [Sunday], the total quantity in the impacted compartment is approximately 306 million gallons.”

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