On Saturday, Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for Manatee County due to the flood danger. On Sunday, he extended the ordinance to include Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, which are also nearby.
“This will ensure that all state resources are available for response and recovery,” DeSantis said Sunday. “What we are looking at now is trying to prevent and respond to, if need be, a real catastrophic flood situation.”
Residents living near the abandoned Piney Point phosphate mine, north of Bradenton and near Tampa, have been forced to leave their homes. According to the Guardian, the residents within a half-mile radius around the reservoir got a text message notification on Saturday, warning them that a reservoir spill was “imminent,” The Guardian reported.
According to state authorities, the leak was found on Friday in one of the 77-acre pond’s walls, which contains around 600 million gallons of arsenic, nitrogen, and minor quantities of radium and uranium-containing water. Significant amounts of radon gas may also be released from the piles.
According to CBS News, Manatee County Director of Public Safety Jake Saur warned that “A portion of the containment wall at the leak site shifted laterally, signifying that structural collapse could occur at any time.”
On Saturday, DeSantis tweeted, “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.”
Workers have been frantically attempting to come up with solutions to avert the global disaster. On Saturday, authorities worked around the clock to pump out as much water as possible to reduce a storm’s impact. However, this technique is cumbersome and can take up to 12 days.
The governor has ordered the delivery of more pumps and cranes to the city. On Friday afternoon, several employees attempted but failed to fill the hole with rocks and other materials.
According to a statement released by Manatee County on Twitter, officials are most worried about flooding that the rupture might bring, noting that the water that will be discharged is “slightly acidic.”
“The water meets water quality standards for marine waters with the exception of pH, total phosphorus, total nitrogen, and total ammonia nitrogen,” the statement said. “It is slightly acidic, but not at a level that is expected to be a concern, nor is it expected to be toxic.”
DeSantis briefed reporters at a news conference on Sunday, saying he and other officials took an “aerial flight” over the site to determine the situation. He said that teams are already working to avoid “a total disastrous flood situation.”
“All response teams are working closely to ensure adequate response and risk mitigation,” he added.
A Manatee County commissioner, George Kruse, said he went to the plant to evaluate the situation on Saturday but had to leave immediately after learning it was a safety threat. According to the Guardian, Kruse said, “We decided that it was no longer safe to be anywhere near Piney Point, so we all sort of ran off the stacks as quickly as we could.”
According to local media sources, residents in the region have been trying to raise awareness about the old phosphate plant for years.
In his Sunday press conference, DeSantis confirmed that water quality is not a significant concern. “The water quality issues that are flowing through this for us is less than the risk of everyone’s health and safety, particularly for those who live in the area,” he said.
The governor of Florida has announced that 316 homes in the city have been evacuated, with companies issuing safety alerts. Residents in the evacuation zone should call 311 for temporary resettlement assistance.
DeSantis also promised that HRK, the group responsible for maintaining the site, will be held accountable.
“This is not acceptable. This is not something we will allow to persist,” he said.