Portions of Manatee County Florida have seen a state of emergency be declared by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as officials say a nearby dam with a significant leak could collapse anytime. The dam is holding back wastewater containing hazardous chemicals from the former Piney Point phosphate processing plant nearby. “A portion of the containment wall at the leak site shifted laterally, signifying that a structural collapse could occur at any time,” said Manatee Director of Public Safety Jake Saur.
The first wave of emergency evacuations were issued Friday for those who live within half a mile of Piney Point and by 11 a.m. Saturday new evacuation orders were issued for those within one mile north of the reservoir’s stacks of phosphogypsum, a radioactive fertilizer waste product. By Saturday evening eviction orders covered those living one mile southwest of the site.
Phosphogypsum and processed wastewater also contain carcinogens and heavy toxic metals. “For every ton of phosphoric acid produced, the fertilizer industry created 5 tones of radioactive phosphogypsum waste, which is stored in mountainous stacks hundred of acres wide and hundreds of feet tall,” said the Center for Biological Diversity.
Local officials are conducting a “controlled release” of water at about 22,000 gallons a minute in an effort to prevent the dam from collapsing. Coming out is a mixture of sea water from a local dredge project, storm water, rain run off and some contaminated water which has not been treated. According to the state of Florida, the water being drained “meets water quality standards for marine waters except the ph total phosphorus, total nitrogen and total ammonia nitrogen.”