Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke at a press conference in Piney Point on Sunday, stressing that the state is responding aggressively to the crisis.
“Public health and safety is the top priority,” DeSantis said.
The focus is on an abandoned Piney Point fertilizer plant reservoir, which contains hundreds of millions of gallons of wastewater and has begun to leak amid a break in a containment wall.
DeSantis said workers are currently pumping out 33 million gallons of wastewater per day, and he stressed that the water being discharged to Port Manatee is being tested and “is not radioactive.”
Should a catastrophic failure occur, the reservoir could dump around 340 million gallons of wastewater into the surrounding area, which some experts have calculated could result in a 20-foot high wave of water sweeping through an area with hundreds of homes.
This photo shows a reservoir near the old Piney Point phosphate mine, Saturday, April 3, 2021 in Bradenton, Fla. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Saturday after a significant leak at a large pond of wastewater threatened to flood roads and burst a system that stores polluted waters. The pond where the leak was discovered is at the old Piney Point phosphate mine, sitting in a stack of phosphogypsum, a waste product from manufacturing fertilizer that is radioactive. (Tiffany Tompkins/The Bradenton Herald via AP) ((Tiffany Tompkins/The Bradenton Herald via AP))
DeSantis issued an evacuation order on Saturday for a half-mile radius around the plant, which has so far led to evacuations for 316 homes.
The state is working with the Red Cross to provide shelter and resources for the displaced families, many of which are staying in local hotels.
DeSantis urged anyone looking for shelter to contact Manatee County authorities.
Authorities began controlled discharges on March 31 in hopes of preventing a breach and subsequent flooding. DeSantis claimed that the water has been tested and monitored, and that the water currently meets standards for dissolved oxygen, salinity and PH.
The state is also bringing in additional equipment to double the effort to dump more water out of the reservoir and into surrounding waterways.
The Florida National Guard is airdropping pumps that will fit over the plant’s stacks to speed up the pumping process, which currently utilizes 10 vacuum trucks in addition to 20 current pumps.
DeSantis also said that the state will hold the company HRK Holdings, which managed the plant site prior to its shutdown in 2001, responsible for any damages that result from a breach.
“Our administration is dedicated to full enforcement of damages to our state’s resources and holding the company HRK accountable for this event,” DeSantis said. “This is not acceptable and not something we will allow to persist.”
Updates are available at Protecting Florida Together’s website.