Piney Point: Emergency crews try to plug Florida toxic wastewater leak

Andrew Cummings
April 5, 2021

On Sunday, Mr DeSantis said emergency workers - assisted by the Florida National Guard - were pumping water out of the pond at a rate of 33 million gallons a day.

Officials are working to prevent a collapse but according to Scott Hopes, Manatee's acting county administrator, attempts to plug the leak with rocks and other earth materials have failed.

The Manatee County Central Jail is at the corner of an evacuation zone surrounding the old Piney Point phosphate mine, where about 300 million gallons of wastewater is threatening to breach a reservoir there and flood the surrounding area.

An Instagram user posted
An Instagram user posted

The water being discharged from Piney Point is a mix of sea water from the Port Manatee dredge project, process water and storm water, officials said. Instead, "we will be depleting the holding ponds of their water, and then we will be moving forward to a permanent solution into the future", he said.

Officials are trying to prevent "a real catastrophic flood situation" by ensuring the quality of the stack system as quickly as possible, DeSantis told reporters during a press conference Sunday.

Now about 22,000 gallons of water are being discharged per minute, and Hopes said he expects the risk of collapse to decrease by Tuesday.


Residents within a 1-mile radius of the plant were ordered to evacuate, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Saturday in Manatee County as well as neighboring Hillsborough and Pinellas counties over the threat.

Hopes says that if the pond collapses, there is a risk it could destabilise the walls of other areas in the plant.

The large reservoir at the Piney Point plant is leaking most likely due to a tear in the pond's liner.


"The radiologicals are still below surface water discharge standards". "So public health and safety is the top priority, and obviously, we want to protect in a way that minimizes any of the environmental impacts".

DeSantis vowed to hold HRK Holdings, the owners of the property, accountable for the failure.

The pond at the abandoned phosphate mine sits in a stack of phosphogypsum, a radioactive waste product from fertilizer manufacturing.


"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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