If breach happens at leaky wastewater pond, wall of water 20-feet high could occur, officials say

'Trying to prevent ... a real catastrophic flood situation,' Gov. Ron DeSantis says
Gov. Ron DeSantis provides updates on the hazardous site near Bradenton that prompted a state of emergency and evacuations.
Posted at 11:58 AM, Apr 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-04 21:06:03-04

PALMETTO, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis took an aerial tour of the Piney Point site Sunday morning.

The governor issued a state of emergency in Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties due to the potential of a breach of the south reservoir of the Piney Point facility.

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

Engineers initiated controlled water releases beginning March 30 to attempt to prevent a catastrophic failure.

Those discharges release about 35 million gallons per day.

A total of 316 homes close to the reservoir have been evacuated.

DeSantis also addressed the safety of the water being released.

"But to be clear, the water being discharged to Port Manatee is not radioactive," DeSantis said during a news conference Sunday. "It is primarily salt water from the Port Manatee dredge project, mixed with legacy processed water and storm water runoff."

The pond where the leak was discovered is at the old Piney Point phosphate mine near Bradenton.

The Florida National Guard is in the process of dropping off additional pumps to help decrease the water levels in the reservoir, the governor said. These pumps will be fed into surrounding waterways.

"If we should have a full breach, within minutes we're down to about 340 million gallons that could breach in totality in a period of minutes, and the models for less than an hour are as high of a 20-foot wall of water," Dr. Scott Hopes, Manatee County's acting county administrator, said.