Radioactive wastewater leak prompts evacuation in Florida

Monday, 05 Apr, 2021

"So if you're in an evacuation area and you have not heeded that you need to think twice and follow the orders". "We can take care of nutrients in the environment ..."

Officials in Florida ordered more than 300 homes to be evacuated and closed off a highway near the large reservoir in the Tampa Bay area north of Bradenton.

The ponds sit in stacks of phosphogypsum, a solid radioactive byproduct from manufacturing fertilizer. Now about 22,000 gallons of water are being discharged per minute, and Hopes said he expects the risk of collapse to decrease by Tuesday.

The Florida National Guard was deploying additional pumps by air at the site to drain the reservoir into local waterways against a catastrophic collapse, he added.

The water being discharged from Piney Point is a mix of sea water from the Port Manatee dredge project, process water and storm water, officials said. The water meets "water quality standards for marine waters with the exception of pH, total phosphorus, total nitrogen and total ammonia nitrogen", according to the Florida DEP. Instead, "we will be depleting the holding ponds of their water, and then we will be moving forward to a permanent solution into the future", he said.

The governor also attempted to downplay reports that the water contained traces of radioactive materials.

Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes told a press conference that there were concerns the water could flood the area, which is mostly agricultural.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
Florida Governor Ron De Santis warns of flood threat Credit Chris O'Meara AP

Hopes, the county administrator, said Sunday that with new state resources, crews will be almost doubling the amount of water being pumped out of the pond and taken to Port Manatee. The issue has been "ongoing for decades", he added.

"We've been trying to solve it for 10-20 years and nothing has happened", said Robinson.

"There have been numerous, well-documented failures - which continue today - of the property's reservoir liner, including leaks, poor welds, holes, cracks, and weaknesses that existed prior to purchase by the current owner, HRK Holdings, and exacerbated since", she writes.

"It's not acceptable", DeSantis said.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that work crews attempted to shore up a breach in a wall at the former Piney Point phosphate plant Saturday morning.

"This is my community, too", Barath said.