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.
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:
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
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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