Florida Works to Avoid 'Catastrophic' Pond Collapse

Florida faces imminent collapse of giant phosphate mine pond

The owner of Piney Point, HRK Holdings, bought the site after it was abandoned by the Mulberry Corporation, which operated the phosphate plant for more than 40 years.

Declaring a state of emergency allowed funds to be released to send more pumps and cranes to the area.

Florida officials are urging residents in the surrounding areas of a wastewater storage pond to heed evacuation orders ahead of a potential overflow of polluted water.

Officials are working to prevent a collapse but according to Scott Hopes, Manatee's acting county administrator, attempts to plug the leak with rocks and other earth materials have failed.

On Sunday, Mr DeSantis said emergency workers - assisted by the Florida National Guard - were pumping water out of the pond at a rate of 33 million gallons a day.

"What we're looking at now is trying to prevent and respond to, if need be, a real catastrophic flood situation", Gov. Ron DeSantis said Sunday, per CNN.

So far, 316 homes have been evacuated and state authorities have closed a number of roads.

Crews have been discharging water since the pond began leaking in March. The water is slightly acidic but not to a concerning or toxic level, officials said.

An Instagram user posted
An Instagram user posted

On Sunday, he said the water was "primarily saltwater" from a dredging project mixed with "legacy process water and storm water runoff".

"This could have been resolved over two decades ago", Hopes said.

The pond where the leak was discovered contains stacks of phosphogypsum, a radioactive byproduct from manufacturing fertilizer, according to the Associated Press.

"We are talking about the potential of about 600 million gallons (2.3 billion liters) within a matter of seconds and minutes leaving that retention pool and going around the surrounding area", Hopes said.

The Environmental Protection Agency said late Sunday that it is "actively monitoring the ongoing situation at Piney Point" and has "deployed an on-scene coordinator" to work with local officials.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says the water "meets water quality standards for marine waters with the exception of pH, total phosphorus, total nitrogen and total ammonia nitrogen".

Fried details in her letter how previously-known poor maintenance by current and former phosphate mine owners have created a risky situation for local residents, communities and even state-managed lands and waters.