MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — There is no second breach at the old Piney Point phosphate plant, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Meanwhile, the effort continues to pump out more than 35 million gallons of water a day to prevent a collapse of the gypsum stack and an uncontrolled spill of contaminated water.
As of Monday, more than two dozen pumps were deployed and drone teams were monitoring every hour.
The Florida DEP said controlled discharges are ongoing to stabilize the system, while uncontrolled discharge to Piney Point Creek stopped. It continues monitoring an area with "concentrated seepage" from an east wall contained on-site.
“We’re at about 35 million gallons this morning per day we should be looking at anywhere from 75 to 100 million gallons a day by the end of the day so you can see how we can more rapidly deplete the volume in the retaining pool which is that greatest risk,” said Manatee County administrator Dr. Scott Hopes.
An EPA on-scene coordinator arrived, and the US Army Corps of Engineers aid it’s providing technical assistance and advice.
The Tampa Bay Estuary Program said it’s helping to coordinate monitoring of the impact to the bay with partners.
“The main concern for this water is the very substantial nutrient load that’s in that stack that’s being drained right now. It’s more than a year’s worth of nitrogen of nutrient pollution being delivered to the bay in about a 5-10 day period so that’s pretty significant,” said Maya Burke, the program’s assistant director.
Burke said right now, the concern is about the southeastern shore of the bay.
“This is mostly a water quality event that could have impacts in terms of macroalgae blooms or other things that affect these resources we really protect and manage the bay for like seagrass, fish and wildlife,” she said.
The Florida DEP said it’s working to “deploy innovative technologies” to remove nutrients from the water before discharge.
“Even if they drain out all of the one pond that’s of concern right now, there are two other ponds at the Piney Point facility that need to be addressed. That water needs to be treated and there needs to be that necessary investment to properly close the facility once and for all,” said Burke.
Meanwhile, others are concerned about what happens next.
“Something like this has to be addressed,” said John Rehill.
He lives just a couple of miles from the evacuation zone and has written about phosphate mining and environmental issues.
“My concern is that the cure doesn’t hurt us more than the disease," Rehill continued.
Manatee County said there are no plans to expand the evacuation zone.