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Florida faces “imminent” pollution disaster in phosphate mining pools Florida



On Sunday, workers were trying to pump millions of gallons of contaminated wastewater into the ecologically sensitive Florida Bay to prevent the “imminent” collapse of the old phosphate mine reservoir.

Officials in Manatee County extended the overnight area of ​​the evacuation zone and warned on Sunday that if they fail to repair the Pine Point Reservoir in the Tampa Bay area north of Bradenton, as many as 340 million gallons of water will be swallowed.”

; 20-foot-long water wall”. .

An aerial image broadcast by a local TV station showed that water gushed from a leak on the wall of the retention pool.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency after officials warned that the pond was “imminent collapse.”

He visited the site by helicopter on Sunday morning and said at a press conference that engineers are still trying to plug the gap in the reservoir wall with rocks and other materials. Other mitigation measures include the controlled release of 35 million gallons of manatees every day. port.

He said that the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) brought 20 new pumps.

Disantis said: “What we are looking for now is to try to prevent and respond to truly catastrophic floods.” “The resulting water quality problems are less than the health and safety risks for everyone, especially those who may live in the area. .”

The governor also tried to downplay reports of trace amounts of radioactive substances in the water.

“Water has been tested before being discharged [and] The main concern is nutrients. He said. “Except for phosphorus and nitrogen, all water meets water quality standards and seawater standards. “

Acting county administrator Scott Hopes warned at a press conference that despite the low population density, the sudden collapse of the 77-acre pond could overwhelm the nearby area, even though the discharge reduces the remaining water.

“What if we should completely violate it? Our air supply is less than 340 million gallons, and it may all break through in a few minutes, and the model in less than an hour is as high as a 20-foot-deep water wall.” He said.

“So if you are in an evacuation zone but are not paying attention, you need to think twice.”

Officials expanded the evacuation zone from a dozen to more than 300 houses late Saturday. The Tampa Bay Times interviewed some residents who refused to leave.

The pond of the abandoned phosphate mine is located in a pile of phosphogypsum, which is the radioactive waste produced in the production of chemical fertilizers. The pond contains small amounts of naturally occurring radium and uranium. The chimney can also release high concentrations of ra gas.

Nikki Fried, Florida Commissioner for Agriculture and the only democratically elected Democrat in the state, warned of an “environmental disaster” and called on DeSantis (to describe the poisonous water in a tweet declaring a state of emergency) A meeting was held for “mixed salt water”). Emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the country’s countermeasures.

“During Easter weekend, people in the flower shop were evacuated from their homes. She said on Twitter: “480 million gallons of toxic wastewater may end up in Tampa Bay-this could become an environmental disaster. “

Environmental protection organizations warned that more pollutants in Tampa Bay will increase the harmful effects of toxic red tide algae blooms on wildlife.

The activist group Mana-Sota 88 said: “The Phosphate Company has been around for more than 50 years. The company has come up with a way to dispose of radioactive gypsum waste.” Accept the final disposal of phosphogypsum waste.”

The team added in a statement: “The current crisis can be traced back to the absurd decision in 2006 to allow the removal of materials from Manatee Port into a gyp chimney at Piney Point, which was never designed. And it should never have been allowed.”

On Saturday, the reservoir near the Old Piney Point Phosphate Mine can be seen from the air.
On Saturday, the reservoir near the Old Piney Point Phosphate Mine can be seen from the air. Photo: Tiffany Tompkins/Associated Press

At a press conference on Sunday, Hopps admitted: “This may have been resolved twenty years ago.” He said that the long-term goal is to empty and fill up all three reservoirs on the site.

HRK Holdings, the owner of Piney Point, bought it after it was abandoned by Mulberry Corporation, which has been operating the phosphate plant for more than 40 years. As early as 2003, the Sarasota Herald Tribune reported that the walls of the reservoir were crumbling. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has previously authorized the dumping of hundreds of millions of gallons of toxic water into the Gulf of Mexico.

At a meeting of the Manatee Committee on Thursday, which was convened after the severity of the new spill became apparent, engineers pointed to the deterioration of the pond’s decades-old plastic lining.

According to the New York Times, Mike Kelley, an engineer commissioned by HRK Holdings, said at the meeting: “The condition of the lining is not particularly good.” “Very old. There are some installation problems. The bushing system has problems. historical.”

The newspaper checked the records of the location and found that staff had recorded small holes or weak links in the plastic seams above the waterline in July, October, and December last year.

DeSantis said on Sunday that he will be responsible for HRK.




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