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Crews Remain At Piney Point Processing Plant To Contain Potential Breach

Manatee County Government

Crews remain at the scene Monday of the leaking Piney Point processing plant in Manatee County and are monitoring the conditions as it threatens to breach.

Over the weekend, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a state of emergency at the phosphate processing pond, which if it breaches could result in hundreds of millions of gallons of water flowing into the neighboring area and Tampa Bay.

Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes on Sunday provided a more optimistic assessment, a day after a breach at the processing plant — located near the Hillsborough County line, south of Sun City Center — was termed “imminent.”

READ MORE: Officials Draining Piney Point Reservoir Into Tampa Bay To Stop Massive Breach

On Saturday, Hopes said models indicated a full breach could produce a wall of water as high as 20 feet. By Sunday, he reduced that estimate to between one and five feet.

Additional pumps were scheduled to come online Monday morning and should double the amount of water that can be taken out.

Nevertheless, conditions in the waters near the plant continue to deteriorate, as seen in this video shot by Rusty Chinnis, founder of Sarasota Bay Watch:

Officials have been releasing water from the pond but estimate that just under 300 million gallons remained on Sunday.

The stack has been leaking since last weekend and crews have been pumping millions of gallons a day into a pipe leading to nearby Port Manatee to relieve stress on the phosphogypsum stack's earthen walls.

The reservoir contained 480 million gallons of wastewater before the discharges began. Between 2 million and 3 million gallons of water per day was also flowing out of the breach.

What we know so far:

  • Part of U.S. 41 in Manatee and Hillsborough counties remains closed, and nearby homes and businesses are evacuated.
  • Most of the water is being discharged into Port Manatee, with small amounts going into Piney Creek and then Cockroach Bay.
  • Manatee County officials also declared a state of emergency to ensure resources are allocated for the response and recovery.

At 12:30 p.m., U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan will hold a news conference to provide an update on the efforts to contain the leak.

And this afternoon, WUSF environmental reporter Jessica Meszaros will speak with Maya Burke, assistant director at the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, about what the massive release of polluted water means to the waters of Tampa Bay.

This is a developing story. Stay with WUSF for updates.

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