During Easter weekend, some residents in Manatee County, Florida, were evacuated from their houses because officials expressed concern that the sinkhole might collapse “at any time.” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in the area on Saturday.
County officials said that according to CBS subsidiary WTSP-TV, there was a “serious leak” in the pond at the former Piney Point phosphate processing plant. The Manatee County Public Safety Department told people near the factory to evacuate because “the controlled release of wastewater is imminent.”
Jake Saur, the head of the Manatee Public Safety Department, said: “Part of the retaining wall at the leak site moved to the side, indicating that the structure may collapse at any time.”
The Manatee County Public Safety Department initially issued an emergency evacuation notice to people located within half a mile of Piney Point on Friday. By 11 AM on Saturday, the evacuation order had been extended to the north of the reservoir phosphate gypsum (a fertilizer). People’s waste within one mile-and waste within half a mile south of the site. The surrounding highways are also closed.
On Saturday night, the mandatory evacuation was extended by half a mile west of the site and a mile to the southwest of the area. The Manatee County Public Security Department said that there were 316 households in the entire evacuation area.
According to the Center for Biodiversity, phosphogypsum is “radioactive waste” left over from processing phosphate rock to a state where it can be used as fertilizer.
The center said in a statement on Saturday: “In addition to high concentrations of radioactive substances, phosphogypsum and treated wastewater may also contain carcinogens and heavy toxic metals.” “For every ton of phosphoric acid produced, the fertilizer industry will 5 tons of radioactive phosphogypsum waste are produced, which are stored in mountain piles hundreds of acres wide and hundreds of feet high.”
Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said in a statement Saturday, “The public must pay attention to this notice to avoid harm.”
Officials control water at the site, about 22,000 gallons per minute.
In order to avoid a total collapse, the water that officials are currently pumping out is a mixture of seawater produced by the local dredging project, storm water and rainwater runoff. The water is not treated.
The state said in a statement: “Except for pH, total phosphorus, total nitrogen and total ammonia nitrogen, these waters meet the water quality standards of seawater.” “It is weakly acidic, but it does not reach the level of concern. It’s not toxic either.”
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried wrote to DeSantis on Saturday, urging the Florida Cabinet to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the situation. She wrote that the leaked water was “contaminated radioactive waste water” and pointed out that the leak was not the first leak of the property.
Fried wrote: “For more than 50 years, this mining activity in central Florida has caused countless human health, environmental disasters and incidents.” “The property’s reservoir lining has many well-documented failures until It is still happening today, including leaks, poor welding, holes, cracks and weaknesses, which existed before the purchase by the existing owner HRK Holdings and have intensified since then.”
The video of the Manatee County Commissioner’s meeting gave people an insight into what happened before the leak. On Thursday afternoon, Jeff Barath, a representative of HRK Holdings, the company that owns the site, was depressed when briefing the Commissioner of Manatee County.
He said: “I’m sorry.” He told the committee that he only slept for a few hours that week because he was trying to resolve the situation. He cried and said that he first noticed that “the conductivity of the leakage collection system at the site increased in the 10 days before March 22.” Said, provide drainage around the plaster stack.
He said that he immediately notified the FDEP of his concerns.
He said: “The water around the seepage is changing. We have entered a very active monitoring program,” he identified the source of the seepage.
They found that the south side of the chimney system had “increased conductivity” and the acidity of the water (usually around 4.6) had dropped to 3.5, which indicated a problem.
After a few days, the chemistry of the water did not improve, and the water flow increased from about 120 gallons per minute to more than 400 gallons per minute in less than 48 hours. He said that last Saturday night, the traffic increased to “I can’t even estimate the traffic to you.”
Barras said that the water filled the chimney so quickly that the ground began to rise. This “bulge” temporarily stabilized, but then extended hundreds of feet.
According to the “Protect Florida Together” website operated by the state government, Barath submitted a report to the state on March 26. The website was created by DeSantis to increase the transparency of state water issues.
He told the committee members: “I originally thought the plaster pile itself would become unstable at a very fast rate, and suggested that we consider emergency emissions.” He said that he was worried that the system would “overpressurize” and cause “complete failure.”
He said: “I have been constantly monitoring all aspects of this gypstack system during most of the day and night and identifying the points of failure.” He pointed out that “the failure points are happening all the time, I mean once every hour.”
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said it had ordered the company to “take immediate action” to prevent further leaks. The department said on March 30 that “the facility’s pipeline was repaired” and began to control emissions to prevent pressure buildup.
However, according to Bharat’s testimony at the meeting, the situation is far from over. In his speech, he said that they are “doing their best to prevent a real disaster.”
On Friday, another leak was discovered in the southern isolation zone of the facility. Despite all-night work to stop this and other leaks, Manatee Public Safety Director Jake Saur said on Saturday that the situation is “escalating.”