Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has won widespread praise from conservatives over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic in his state. Now, DeSantis is facing another crisis.
The governor declared a state of emergency on Saturday after a large retention pond containing 480 million gallons of polluted water leaked at the site of a former phosphate plant in Manatee County along Florida’s Gulf coast, The Daily Caller reported.
“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,” DeSantis tweeted Saturday.
Emergency crews on site
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection released a statement regarding the situation and the facility, which is owned by a company called HRK Holdings.
The department is requiring HRK to “take immediate action and implement all necessary steps to ensure the integrity of the stack system and its lined impoundments and prevent an uncontrolled discharge. The response includes controlled discharges of mixed seawater to maintain integrity of the stack.”
According to KOKI-TV, the leak poses an “imminent hazard” to more than 300 homes near Tampa Bay, and residents have been evacuated.
The governor said emergency crews, along with the Florida National Guard, have been pumping 33 million gallons of water daily to reduce the pressure on the breach. It’s unclear if the efforts will be successful.
Acting Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes said that worst-case models predict the breach of the pond could result in “a 20 foot wall” of contaminated water.
According to Jaclyn Lopez, the Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity, the situation could have been prevented. “This environmental disaster is made worse by the fact it was entirely foreseeable and preventable,” Lopez said in statement Saturday.
“With 24 more phosphogypsum stacks storing more than 1 billion tons of this dangerous, radioactive waste in Florida, the EPA needs to step in right now,” she said.
She continued, “Federal officials need to clean up this mess the fertilizer industry has dumped on Florida communities and immediately halt further phosphogypsum production.”
According to BBC, attempts on Friday to repair the hole that caused the leak failed.