Gov. DeSantis declares state of emergency for Piney Point phosphate plant crisis
Ron DeSantis. Image via The Associated Press.

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Manatee County issued an emergency evacuation order for residents within a half-mile of the Piney Point industrial site.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency for Manatee County in response to the environmental crisis occurring at the Piney Point phosphate plant.

“Due to a possible breach of mixed saltwater from the south reservoir at the Piney Point facility, I have declared a State of Emergency for Manatee County to ensure resources are allocated for necessary response & recovery,” he said in a tweet.

The state of emergency applies to the “imminent” collapse at phosphate plant following the discovery of a breach Friday afternoon. Manatee County issued an emergency evacuation order Friday for residents within a half-mile of the Piney Point industrial site, according to reporting from the Bradenton Herald.

The breach threatens the county with millions of gallons of polluted water flooding neighborhoods and into Tampa Bay.

The most recent public safety alert relayed the severity of a potential collapse, reading “Emergency alert: extreme. Evacuate area NOW. Collapse of Piney Point stack imminent!”

Manatee County Commission Chair Vanessa Baugh issued a statement Saturday saying commissioners were notified at 11 a.m. of the complete evacuation of those near the shuttered Piney Point phosphate plant due to “further collapse” of one gypsum stack overnight, despite efforts from local and state crews to stave off crisis.

In her statement, Baugh referred media to the scheduled press conference and updates via official Manatee County twitter accounts.

“Our first concern is to protect the people that live and do business in the area,” the statement reads. “Manatee County Commissioners stand ready to respond with any financial or human resource needs in order to assist the brave men and women responding at the site of the stack.”

The situation has led to road closures near the area. Local and state emergency management teams descended on the scene after the breach was observed in the wall of a leaking pond, which holds 400 million gallons of water containing phosphorus and nitrogen from the old phosphate mining property.

Phosphogypsum, the radioactive waste seeping from the site, is formed as a by-produce from fertilizer production, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The waste is stored in large piles, or stacks.

By leaking into Tampa Bay, which has already occurred and will increase with a full collapse, the excess nutrients could cause algal blooms, which lead to red tide, environmentalists warn.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected]


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