Florida officials travel to Piney Point site to mitigate risk of uncontrolled discharges

April 5, 2021

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Sunday traveled to Manatee County to meet with state and local officials as Florida continues to mitigate the potential risk of uncontrolled discharges from Piney Point.

Regulators recently discovered a leak in the liner of a reservoir at Piney Point, a former phosphate plant in Manatee County. A leak at an old phosphate plant site has threatened Tampa Bay for the last week with environmental catastrophe, according to the Tampa Bay Times. https://www.tampabay.com/news/environment/2021/04/04/five-questions-answered-about-piney-point-leak-in-manatee-county/

Piney Point used to be a fertilizer manufacturing facility, and industrial byproducts of that process are still stored on site, according to the Times. That includes polluted water and phosphogypsum, a substance kept in stacks and monitored for its radioactivity.

The governor has issued a State of Emergency in Manatee County to ensure proper resources are available for response and recovery.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Noah Valenstein and Florida Division of Emergency Management Director (FDEM) Jared Moskowitz are onsite at the Manatee County Emergency Operations Center.

In addition, state agencies are coordinating resources both in Tallahassee and onsite to ensure proper response and mitigation of risks in Manatee County. DEP and FDEM are also working closely with the Florida Department of Health to mitigate any risks to public health, and are coordinating with the Florida Department of Transportation and Florida Highway Patrol on infrastructure and road closures.

“Our first priority is public health and safety. Teams on the ground are laser-focused on addressing this issue, and I have directed Secretary Valenstein to work with Manatee County and utilize all available resources to form a permanent solution to this longstanding issue,” DeSantis said. “I have also deployed the National Guard and they are in the process of dropping off additional pumps via aircraft on top of the berms, to help decrease the water levels in the Piney Point reservoir at an even faster pace. The State is committed to holding HRK and all involved parties accountable.”

“Our teams are working around the clock to mitigate risks and ensure emergency preparedness in the area that could experience flooding, should an uncontrolled breach occur. It is clear that this facility must be closed. I want to assure Floridians that we are dedicated to holding HRK accountable for this issue through enforcement action,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein.

“At the division, we are sending every resource at our disposal to the site by truck, crane and helicopter. We have already deployed 20 pumps, 10 vacuum trucks and more than 100,000 bottles of water, with more on the way. I urge residents in the area to follow all warnings and evacuation orders from local officials as we do everything we can to keep you safe,” said FDEM Director Jared Moskowitz.

On March 26, 2021, there were approximately 480 million gallons in the impacted NGS-South compartment. As of Sunday morning, the total quantity in the impacted compartment is approximately 306 million gallons. The state continues to work around the clock to make repairs and remove water from the compartment to prevent uncontrolled discharge into surrounding areas.

Currently, 316 residents are under an evacuation order and should heed the guidance given from Manatee County. For information on public safety and evacuation guidance in this area, please visit MyManatee.org.

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