Florida governor urgently working to prevent 'catastrophic flood' in Tampa area

Andrew Cummings
April 5, 2021

Speaking at a press conference Sunday morning, DeSantis said officials are pumping out 33 million gallons of water a day from the wastewater reservoir near the former Piney Point phosphate plant adding that the water, which contains phosphorus and nitrogen from the plant, is "not radioactive" although officials said it is not water they "want to see leaving the site".

"What we're looking at now is trying to prevent and respond to, if need be, a real catastrophic flood situation", Gov. Ron DeSantis said Sunday, per CNN.

Florida officials are urging residents in the surrounding areas of a wastewater storage pond to heed evacuation orders ahead of a potential overflow of polluted water.

An estimated 390 million gallons of water remained in the pond as of Saturday morning, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Manatee County officials said in an emergency alert sent to area residents late on Saturday.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
Florida Governor Ron De Santis warns of flood threat Credit Chris O'Meara AP

Then a portion of the pond's containment wall shifted, meaning a collapse could occur at any time.

The pond had begun leaking in March after which county officials began discharging water from it. "It is slightly acidic, but not at a level that is expected to be a concern, nor is it expected to be toxic".

Environmental groups urged the U.S. federal government to step in.

To date, roughly 22,000 gallons of water are being pumped out of the pond every minute, and according to Hopes, he is expecting the danger of collapse to decline by Tuesday.

But "we are not out of the critical area yet", he warned.

Hopes said he could not rule out that a full breach could also destabilise the walls of the other ponds at the Piney Point site.

He specified the radiological is still lower than the surface water discharge standards.

The Center for Biological Diversity national conservation group called for the US Environmental Protection Agency to step in.

The pond where the leak was discovered contains stacks of phosphogypsum, a radioactive byproduct from manufacturing fertilizer, according to the Associated Press.

ABC News could not immediately reach a representative for HRK Holdings for comment.

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

In 2016, more than 200 million gallons of contaminated waste water from another fertiliser plant in central Florida leaked into one of the state's main aquifers after a massive sinkhole opened up in a pond of a phosphogypsum stack.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Sunday his administration is working urgently to prevent a "catastrophic flood" near the major city of Tampa, following the leak of a toxic wastewater reservoir in the region.

"We hope the contamination is not as bad as we fear but are preparing for significant damage to Tampa Bay and the communities that rely on this precious resource", Justin Bloom, founder of the Sarasota-based nonprofit organization Suncoast Waterkeeper, said in a statement.

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