Earlier Monday, an infrared drone detected a possible second breach in the containment wall of the Piney Point sewage pond, officials said – creating what the governor called a “catastrophic flood situation.”
But the Florida DEP said in an afternoon update that the technical task force, which includes engineers and dam safety specialists from different states, feds and other third-party groups, has determined that the site was safe for further work.
Officials also confirmed that the water was not radioactive.
Manatee County took the precaution of transporting 267 inmates Sunday night to a correctional facility in neighboring Polk County, said Randy Warren, spokesperson for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
Increased pumping efforts
At a press conference on Monday, officials said they plan to step up efforts to pump water as the day progresses.
“At the end of the day today, when the additional pumps are put into operation, we will more than double the volume of water we are withdrawing from this retention pond,” the county administrator said by Acting, Scott Hopes.
“We should be looking at 75 to 100 million gallons per day by the end of the day.”
U.S. Representative Vern Buchanan, a Republican whose district includes Manatee County, said on Monday that the leak could have a significant environmental impact on the region in terms of algae blooms.
“I’ve been following the red tide for 20 years – you know, it can have a big impact on all of Florida,” he said. “It comes down to public safety and marine life, and we see these manatees dying, and what it does to small businesses and restaurants and everything in between.”
Buchanan said he wanted the problem “to be fixed permanently because it is something that has been going on for a long time.”
State environmental officials said in a statement on Saturday that “while this water meets most water quality standards for marine waters, there are high levels of nutrients and water. is acid “.
Governor warns of ‘catastrophic flood situation’
After an aerial visit on Sunday, Governor Ron DeSantis said response teams were trying to prevent a “catastrophic flooding situation” in the Piney Point Reservoir area.
The governor assured the public that the water discharged near Port Manatee on the Gulf Coast is not radioactive.
“What we’re looking for now is to try to prevent and respond, if necessary, to a true catastrophic flood situation,” DeSantis said.
“The goal is to ensure the integrity of the chimney system as quickly as possible to minimize impacts on local residents and to avoid uncontrolled release.”
County chief says water is safe to drink
Manatee County Commission Chair Vanessa Baugh assured Manatee County utility customers that “their drinking water is perfectly safe to drink.”
“The water distribution system is a closed system with no way for flood water to enter,” Baugh said. “There is also no threat to our main source of drinking water, the lake manatee.”
DeSantis said Manatee County public safety officials sent evacuation notices to nearby residents and businesses and helped evacuate 316 homes that were in the evacuation area near Piney. Point.
Engineers on site said controlled release was needed to avoid a “catastrophic failure,” according to the governor. Controlled releases that began on March 30 and continued on Sunday average around 35 million gallons per day, he added.
The Florida National Guard is dropping additional pumps, which “will be introduced into surrounding waterways” to help quickly reduce water levels in the reservoir, DeSantis said.
Hopes, the county administrator, asked residents to listen to emergency management.
“If we were to have a full violation, in a few minutes we were down to about 340 million gallons which could be full, in a period of minutes, and the patterns for less than an hour are as high (as) a 20- foot wall of water, ”said Hopes. “So if you are in an evacuation area and you have ignored that, you have to think twice and follow orders.”
Hopes also said that although they are not out of the critical zone yet, they believe they will be “in a much better position and the level of risk will have dropped significantly” by Tuesday.
CNN’s Chris Boyette and Melissa Alonso contributed to this report.