Inspection drones have detected a possible second crack in a reservoir at an old phosphate plant that could rupture and dump hundreds of thousands of liters of contaminated water over nearby homes and Tampa Bay, Florida officials said on Monday (5). ).
“An infrared drone has identified a signal that could indicate a second crack in the southern Piney Point reservoir,” said Jake Saur, director of public security for Manatee County, on the west coast of this state of the United States, at a news conference.
Engineers are evaluating the new situation, added Saur, as the evictions continue in the Tampa Bay area amid the threat that millions of gallons of contaminated water will leak from the old Piney Point phosphate plant.
Experts continue to pump water out of the cistern at a rate of 35 million gallons (132,000 m3) per day.
Contaminated water is being discharged into Tampa Bay in an effort to prevent flooding in the area that could be a major disaster, although the solution also threatens to collapse a delicate ecology on which marine life and tourism depend.
Residents of more than 300 homes near the abandoned facilities in Manatee County evacuated the area after an evacuation order over the weekend.
The first floor of the county prison was also evacuated, officials said. About 345 prisoners were transferred by bus to an undisclosed location, while the others were taken with officials to the second floor.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Saturday declared a state of emergency in three counties in the Tampa Bay area to free up resources and face the crisis.
If the potential flooding of the area around the old Piney Point plant is successfully avoided, all contaminated water can go into the sea.
“It would be like dumping 50,000 bags of fertilizer into the bay,” Ed Sherwood, director of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, explained to the Tampa Bay Times.
DeSantis said on Sunday that these wastewater “meet water quality standards for marine waters”, although they have excessive amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen.
Algae grow very fast with these elements, and environmental groups fear that a discharge into the ocean of thousands of liters of these nutrient-rich waters could cause a deadly “red tide” or an algae explosion, which would seriously affect not only marine life, but also tourist activity.
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