When workers scrambled to plug the leaked water in a toxic wastewater reservoir in Florida, local political activists have long been scorned by environmentalists, saying that the state is experiencing a historic failure. Ten years of environmental disaster is a foregone conclusion.
Although the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said Monday night that fears of another leak from the Pine Peak Reservoir were unfounded, a body of water filled with toxic waste and fertilizer runoff about 40 miles south of Tampa is still on the verge of collapse. Governor Ron DeSantis warned on Sunday that the Manatee County area could suffer “catastrophic floods”
The crew continued to pump waste water from the leaking reservoir, but their work may be too little and too late. Over the weekend, people in more than 300 houses in potentially flooded areas were ordered to evacuate. County officials said that if the reservoir is filled with waste from a closed phosphate plant, it will completely destroy the reservoir, and 600 million gallons of water can be spewed from the reservoir in a matter of minutes.
Environmental advocates in the Tampa Bay area say they are aware of the impending crisis and are worried about its potential short- and long-term effects.
Glenn Compton, the founder of ManaSota-88, a Florida environmental advocacy non-profit organization, has been following Piney Point closely since 1968, two years after phosphate mining started at the site.
When talking about the reservoir, he said: “This is another catastrophic crisis.” “Anything that might go wrong has gone wrong.”
The Piney Point Reservoir is located above the phosphogypsum stack (often called the “gyp stack”), which is a huge reservoir containing waste by-products from the phosphate fertilizer industry. Many buildings are more than 200 feet high and have reservoirs on top of them to collect rainwater.
Compton said: “When the gyp chimney is too big and it rains, you don’t want rainwater to pass through the chimney and leak.” In theory, the Piney Point Reservoir is used to collect rainwater and prevent further pollution.
He said that this is the case if the reservoir is not plagued by “a series of failures.”
He said that in 2006, one of the ponds was drained. Instead, the on-site manager transported materials from the nearby manatee port. He said: “The pile was never intended to contain the excavated material.”
He said that when the plastic lining that contained water was torn in 2011, “millions of gallons of untreated wastewater were discharged from the construction site,” polluting nearby ports and destroying the fragile ecosystem.
However, this leak did not make enough changes to prevent further disasters.
He warned that now, the reservoir is leaking, and the risk is huge.
Compton said: “There is no best situation here.” He believes that the current leak could have been avoided.
Justin Bloom, a local lawyer and founder of the non-profit organization Suncoast Waterkeeper, said that in the worst-case scenario, the water will eventually enter the bay, destroying the environment and economy of the region. Midwestern Florida.
He said: “The main reason many people move here and live here is to be close to the ocean and near Tampa Bay.” Complete destruction will be very dangerous, and long-term destruction may wipe out fisheries, tourism and reduce property values.
Bloom said that Piney Point has a “long and dirty history” and described it as “a threat that the community has been dealing with for years.”
He said: “The local, state and federal governments failed to fully regulate the facility and the phosphate industry.”
Bloom et al. said that the phosphate fertilizer industry is seriously polluted from “cradle to grave”: mining pollution and gypsum deposits also cause pollution.
Even if violations can be prevented, the damage has already occurred. Officials are trying to pump water out of the leaking reservoir, but the water must flow somewhere.
“Where are they going to water?” asked Sarah Hollenhurst, an environmentalist in the area.
She suspects that the water will eventually flow into small rivers and bays, causing the terrible red tides or algal blooms that have plagued the area. This happens when runoff drives the growth of algae. When the algae die, they absorb oxygen from the water, causing fish to die.
Hollenhurst is also concerned that the aquifer may be contaminated, which may affect the water supply. She suspects that there are more than a dozen plasterboard piles in Florida, and she suspects that more similar incidents will happen.
She said: “Like phosphate mining, these disasters will continue.”