In Florida, an emergency was declared due to a water leak with chemicals: residents of hundreds of houses were evacuated
In Manati County, Florida, a state of emergency was declared over the weekend and residents of more than 300 homes were ordered to evacuate due to a leak in a sewage tank. NPR.
A significant leak was discovered on Friday, April 2, in a sewage pond located at Piney Point, a former phosphate plant. Officials warned of the possibility of a reservoir collapse and flooding of nearby areas.
The Manati Public Security Department warned residents on Friday and Saturday (April 2 and 3), urging them to immediately leave the area of potential danger.
Authorities are now working to drain the reservoir into Port Manati Bay to reduce the risk of collapse.
On Saturday, April 3, Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in the county. The next day, he said in a press conference that the discharged water is not radioactive and that it is mostly salt water, "mixed with process water and storm water."
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said the water “meets quality standards for marine waters, with the exception of pH, total phosphorus, total nitrogen, and total ammoniacal nitrogen. It is slightly acidic, but not at the level expected to be of concern. ”
DeSantis said officials are working to install additional pumps to drain the tank and pump out 33 million gallons (125 million liters) per day.
It clarifies Fox News, in the event of a catastrophic failure, the reservoir could discharge about 340 million gallons (1,3 billion liters) of wastewater into the surrounding area, which some experts estimate could result in a 20-foot (6-meter) wave of water that sweeps the area from hundreds of houses.
The state is working with the Red Cross to provide shelter and resources for displaced families, many of whom live in local hotels.
DeSantis urged all asylum seekers to contact the Manati County authorities.
The state is also introducing additional equipment to redouble efforts to discharge more water from the reservoir into surrounding waterways.
The Florida National Guard is releasing pumps that will vent air through the plant's pipes to speed up the pumping process, which now uses 10 dedicated pumping machines in addition to 20 existing pumps.
DeSantis also said the state will hold HRK Holdings, which operated the plant until it closed in 2001, liable for any damage resulting from the breach.
“Our administration is committed to fully reimbursing our state resources and holding HRK accountable for this event,” DeSantis said. "This is unacceptable and we will not let this continue."
Situation updates are available on the website Protecting Florida Together.
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As the Associated Press noted, the ponds "are located in heaps of phosphogypsum, a solid, radioactive by-product of fertilizer production."
Officials are working to prevent the collapse, but Scott Hopes, acting Administrator for Manatee County, said attempts to plug the spill with rocks and other soil materials have been unsuccessful.
The plant problem is not new. According to Hopes, "As you know, this problem has been around for decades."
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