A team of engineers determined on Monday afternoon that an anomaly found in a sewage pond that threatens to collapse in Florida is not a second breach, although an eviction order persists due to flood risk in the area, authorities said.
“An infrared drone identified a signal that could indicate a second breach in the pond south of Piney Point,” said Jake Saur, director of public safety for Manatee County – on the west coast of this US state -, at a part-time press conference.
Hours later, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) indicated that state and federal engineers “were at the site today evaluating the conditions and determined that the site was safe to continue working.”
The text adds that, to relieve the pressure on the existing crack in this old phosphate plant in the town of Piney Point, the water is being discharged in the Manatee port of Tampa Bay, on the west coast of Florida.
On Saturday, Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency and the evacuation of more than 300 homes was ordered due to the threat that the raft would flood the area with millions of gallons of contaminated water.
On Monday, experts continued to pump the water out of the pond at a rate of 35 million gallons per day (132,000 m3).
Acting Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes estimated earlier Monday that there were still about 300 million gallons of water in the basin, which contained 480 million prior to the breach.
Water is being dumped into the port in an effort to prevent flooding in the area, although the solution also threatens to collapse the delicate ecology on which marine life and tourism depend.
– “It is not radioactive” –
Florida Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan said he was “very concerned” and called on the federal environmental protection agency (EPA) to get involved in the emergency.
“I hate to see what is happening,” he declared. “This is why I want EPA to get involved as well, because they probably have the best in terms of resources.”
In addition to residents near the abandoned fertilizer production plant, the county jail was also evicted.
A group of 345 inmates were transferred to an undisclosed location, while the rest were transferred along with staff to the second floor of the prison, which has just over 1,000 inmates.
However, successfully avoiding the potential flooding of the area can mean that all the contaminated water goes to the sea instead.
DEP added in its statement that the analysis of several samples showed that the salinity, dissolved oxygen and pH in the samples “meet the water quality standards” and that the water is “not radioactive”, although the results of these studies were not disclosed.
However, concerns remain that the water contains excessive amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen.
Seaweed grows very fast in these elements, and environmental groups fear that a discharge into the ocean of thousands of thousands of liters of these nutrient-rich waters could cause a deadly “red tide” or explosion of algae, which seriously affects not only marine life but also tourist activity.
“It would be like pouring 50,000 bags of fertilizer into the bay at once,” Ed Sherwood, director of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, told the Tampa Bay Times.