Manatee County, Florida, is under a state of emergency and more than 300 homes were ordered evacuated due to a leak at a wastewater reservoir, reported NPR.
A leak was discovered Apr. 2 at the wastewater pond located at Piney Point, a former phosphate plant. Officials warned about the potential for the reservoir's collapse to flood nearby areas, according to NPR. Authorities in Florida said on Apr. 4 that they were making progress in their efforts to drain the leaking reservoir, which holds more than 300 million gallons of wastewater, reported The New York Times. If it were to breach, however, it could result in a 20-foot wall of water, according to Scott Hopes, the acting administrator for Manatee County.
“What we’re looking at now is trying to prevent and respond to, if need be, a real catastrophic flood situation,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis at a news conference, reported The New York Times.
Manatee's Public Safety Department alerted residents to leave immediately and Gov. DeSantis issued an executive order on Apr. 3 declaring a state of emergency for three counties that could be affected by the leaking reservoir.
Controlled releases from the reservoir to reduce the chances of a full-fledged breach started on Apr. 2, which resulted in an average of 35 million gallons a day being siphoned, reported The New York Times. On March 26, when the initial leak was reported, the reservoir held about 480 million gallons of water and the reservoir was leaking at a rate of two million to three million gallons per day, officials said.
“The water being discharged from Piney Point is mixed sea water (primarily saltwater from the Port Manatee dredge project, mixed with legacy process water and storm water runoff/rainfall,” according to The Florida Department of Environmental Protection. “The water meets water quality standards for marine waters with the exception of pH, total phosphorus, total nitrogen and total ammonia nitrogen. It is slightly acidic, but not at a level that is expected to be a concern.”
DeSantis said officials are working to bring in additional pumps to drain the reservoir and are pumping out 33 million gallons per day, reported NPR.