For the last week, a wastewater plant in Piney Point, Florida, has been on the verge of flooding and threatening a widespread catastrophe in Manatee County. 
Scott Hopes, the acting county administrator, told the Bradenton Herald on Friday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers located the leak and is now determining the best way to prevent further flooding. 
“The divers will be going down, and they’re thinking of the possibility of dropping a big steel plate to seal it off,” he told the paper. 
The New York Times said plants like the one in Piney Point are not uncommon across the country, and each one comes with its environmental risks. The paper said these ponds are usually located near industrial plants or livestock, and they often contain hazardous byproducts of coal and animal waste. Daniel Estrin, the general counsel at the Waterkeeper Alliance, a nonprofit, told the paper these facilities are “just an irresponsible way to store very dangerous waste.”
He said climate change also adds to the inherent risk that comes with operating them. The report pointed out that Florida is famous for its phosphate production and accounts for about 80 percent of the U.S. output. The facility in danger is at a former phosphate mining plant. 
The Times said the pond held 400 million gallons of water loaded with heavy metals and other toxic waste, which sits on top of at least 70 feet of the phosphogypsum tailings. The Herald reported the state is working to treat the water and remove some of the harmful contents. 
The report said officials in the state managed to reduce the amount of water in the pond to 232 million gallons as of Thursday night but warned of possible issues after pumping some of the water into Port Manatee. Officials stopped discharging water into the port on Friday, according to the state.
The paper said the disaster may have been averted on land, but the water surrounding the area could be in jeopardy and some officials worry the move could lead to an algae bloom.
CBS News reported that state officials said the water was determined to not have harmful levels of radioactive material. State officials told the network the water in the pond meets marine water quality standards “with the exception of pH, total phosphorus, total nitrogen, and total ammonia nitrogen.”
“It is slightly acidic, but not at a level that is expected to be a concern,” the department said in a statement obtained by CBS News. “Field operation teams are now deploying nutrient reduction and removal treatments of the water on-site to address any required discharges in the future. This will significantly reduce nutrient loading to Port Manatee and help minimize water quality impacts.”

Skip to content