New drone footage has revealed a possible second breach at Florida’s leaking Piney Point phosphate plant, officials said on Monday.
“At approximately 2am an infrared drone identified a signature that could indicate a second breach and the engineering team evacuated the site,” Manatee County Public Safety Director Jacob Saur said.
“However, I will tell you that the Army Corps of Engineers and new engineers from the Department of Environmental Protection are back out at the site now and they’re reassessing that.”
Mr Saur said more information will be released after the assessment is finished.
The abandoned plant in Manatee County has been leaking toxic wastewater since late March. On Friday, a “significant” leak was detected, and Florida governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency. Hundreds of Manatee residents relocated after receiving an ominous text alert to “Evacuate NOW.”
“What we’re looking at now is trying to prevent and respond to, if need be, a real catastrophic flood situation,” Mr DeSantis said at a news conference on Sunday.
Workers have been rushing to pump gallons of wastewater from the pond near the old phosphate mine reservoir to reduce the chances of a full-fledged breach. Over the weekend, the Florida National Guard brought in 20 additional pumps to help drain the wastewater into Tampa Bay in a controlled release.
Local officials say the effort is making progress, but have asked the public for patience.
“With the additional pumps, we will be able to nearly double the amount of water we are taking out,” Manatee County Acting Administrator Scott Hopes told Fox 13.
“The controlled release is working,” he went on. “The breach release is traveling in the direction we had anticipated and planned for, so we believe that probably by Tuesday we are going to be in a much better position and the risk level will have decreased significantly with the governor’s assets.”
Other public officials, however, have expressed outrage over the leaks.
“To see the water spewing out, it looks pretty contaminated to me,” Congressman Vern Buchanan told Fox 13 after surveying the damage by helicopter.
“I really hate to see what happens in terms of the algae bloom, not just here, but across the state. When I see water flowing into Tampa Bay, frankly, it makes me sick.”
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