SARASOTA, Fla .– Crews continued pumping sewage from a retention pond in Tampa Bay on Tuesday to avoid a catastrophic breach that could send a huge wall of water into the surrounding area.
Last week, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection approved the pumping of industrial wastewater from a retention pond at Piney Point, a former phosphate plant, in response to the facility’s second leak in a decade. Wastewater is about as acidic as black coffee and contains high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen, which can feed the algae responsible for the red tide.
After pumping more than 30 million gallons of sewage each day into Tampa Bay, the amount of water in the Piney Point holding pond has fallen to less than 300 million gallons, from about 480 million gallons la last week at that time.
Officials on Tuesday hoped the threat of a complete rupture of the walls of the Piney Point reservoir would pass by the end of the day.
Meanwhile, more than 300 homes and several businesses in the area around Piney Point have been evacuated. A state of emergency has been declared by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
Visual explicator: How crews pumped sewage into Tampa Bay to prevent breach and flood in Florida
Here’s what we know on Tuesday:
How has the threat of a complete reservoir rupture evolved?
Manatee County officials were hoping on Tuesday that they will be able to declare by the end of the day Tuesday that the immediate crisis at Piney Point has passed and a breach in a wall of the sewage retention pond in the old fertilizer factory is no longer at risk of digging into a catastrophic breach that would inundate surrounding properties.
“We will, most likely, be able to signal that we are coming out of this critical stage of potential total violation for something that is much better contained and the level of risk will be lower this afternoon at the rate that we are.” Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes told the County Commission on Tuesday.
Engineers pumped large amounts of water out of the sewage containment pond to relieve pressure on the breach in the pond wall. As this continues, Hopes said the threat of the wall failing is diminishing.
“It’s no worse, which is good news,” John Truitt, assistant secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said Tuesday morning.
Truitt said new pumps are expected to be operational on Tuesday to help remove sewage from the pond.
Map: see Florida sewage leak
Is there a second breach in the Piney Point retention pond?
As the leaking sewage containment pond wall at the site of the former Piney Point fertilizer plant continues to be a critical situation, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said Monday that concerns about a possible second breach in the wall proved to be unfounded.
Manatee County officials said a drone fitted with thermal imaging equipment identified a possible second breach in the wall as of 2 a.m. Monday. An investigation later determined that the identified area was not another failure of the wall, according to the department.
“Our technical team and engineers came in and assessed and determined that there was no second breach,” said department spokeswoman Shannon Herbon.
What are the environmental impacts of pumping wastewater to Tampa Bay?
Environmental groups say they fear recent releases from a Piney Point wastewater treatment facility could cause an algal bloom that could impact Florida’s southwest coast.
The nutrient-rich waters from the treatment facility will compensate for natural balances in coastal estuaries and eventually end up in the Gulf of Mexico, where the red tide begins.
The area was partially paralyzed during a 17-month red tide bloom that began in fall 2017 and lasted until spring 2019.
After:Piney Point Waters May Fuel Harmful Algal Blooms Along Southwest Florida Coast
State and county authorities are looking for ways to clean up the water and prevent it from being discharged into Tampa Bay.
Hopes, the Manatee County administrator, said he was working with a company capable of storing 150 million gallons in portable tanks, which can be shipped overnight from Pennsylvania and Texas.
Hopes said there were also discussions about pumping water into tankers and barges, which would then transport the water to a Louisiana company that could dispose of it through injection wells. deep.
Hopes said the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is setting up a reverse osmosis treatment system on the Piney Point property to clean up the water.
“I think we’re going to see over the next few days a decrease in what’s going on in the bay,” Hopes said. “The goal is to keep as many resources as possible on site.”
What will happen to Piney Point after this crisis is over?
State lawmakers are pushing a bill to fund a full clean-up and closure of the phosphogypsum stacks at Piney Point with US Rescue Plan funds, an effort that could cost more than $ 200 million.
On Monday evening, Republican State Senate Speaker Wilton Simpson announced that the Senate will consider a budget amendment on Wednesday when it considers Senate Bill 2500, known as the General Appropriation Act.
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