State of Emergency: Florida Toxic Wastewater Reservoir on Brink of Collapse

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A state of emergency has been declared by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as the Piney Point toxic wastewater reservoir is on the blink of collapse, as hundreds of residents in Manatee County, Florida are being evacuated.

Governor Declares State of Emergency in Manatee County

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency, as hundreds of residents in Manatee County were ordered to evacuate over the weekend. The residents were forced to flee their homes because the Piney Point toxic wastewater reservoir could collapse “at any time.”

The Manatee County Public Safety Department told people near the reservoir to evacuate due to an “imminent uncontrolled release of wastewater,” CBS reported.

The reservoir, which is roughly 40 miles south of Tampa, could flood homes with as much as 15 to 20 feet of water if it collapses, according to officials, NBC reported.

“A portion of the containment wall at the leak site shifted laterally, signifying that structural collapse could occur at any time,” Manatee Director of Public Safety Jake Saur said.

Hundreds Evacuated, Roads Shut Down

Emergency evacuation notices began being issued by the Manatee County Public Safety Department on Friday for residents living within a half-mile of Piney point, but by Saturday the zone was extended to within one mile north, as well as an additional half mile west and one mile southwest of the site. At least 316 families have been evacuated so far, according to various reports.

Surrounding stretches of highway were also closed to traffic. In addition, the federal aviation administration (FAA) issued temporary flight restrictions over the reservoir for Monday.

Even though local residents have been evacuated, concerns have been raised over the inmates of them entity County jail, which is within the evacuation zone. On Sunday, the Manatee County Sheriff’s office said that out of over 1,000 inmates, it would be moving 345 “to an undisclosed secure location.”

What Is in the Water?

According to reports, the water in the Piney Point reservoir holds a mix of salt water, fresh water, wastewater, and fertilizer runoff.

Because the ponds are within stacks of phosphogypsum, a solid radioactive byproduct of manufacturing fertilizer, concerns were raised that the water may be radioactive, but Governor DeSantis clarified on Sunday the water is not radioactive.

DeSantis added that officials were pumping out 33 million gallons of water per day. DeSantis did acknowledge that the water contains metals and water samples should be available in the coming days.

Manatee County officials have scheduled a public briefing on the Piney Point processing plant for Monday, April 5, 2021 at 12:30 PM ET. The briefing will be aired live on CBSN.