Environmental disaster in Florida initially averted

Dhe danger of an environmental catastrophe caused by a leak in the sewage basin of a former phosphate and fertilizer plant in the American state of Florida has been averted for the time being. The crack was not sealed, but the situation is under control, the authorities in the Manatee district announced on Tuesday (local time). Several hundred million liters of the wastewater polluted with phosphorus and nitrogen could have been pumped out to take pressure off the tank wall. The state averted “a huge catastrophic event,” said Florida’s Agriculture Minister Nikki Fried.

The authority in the Manatee district, south of Tampa, overturned an evacuation warrant for around 300 homes and businesses in the area. For safety reasons, some streets should remain closed for the time being. But there are no restrictions on residents who return to their homes or on companies that start operations again, said the director of public safety, Jacob Saur. “We believe the threat has been successfully contained and reduced,” said acting District Administrator Scott Hopes.

A crack was discovered last week in the approximately 33-hectare and eight-meter-deep basin. In the event of a total break in the pool wall, Hopes had warned on Sunday of a tidal wave up to six meters high. There were also concerns that a collapse of this reservoir could affect other basins with more dangerous debris on the site. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had declared a state of emergency for Manatee County.

Plant is to be closed and renovated

According to the Florida Environmental Protection Agency, there are still around 1.1 billion liters of phosphorus and nitrogen polluted wastewater in the basin in the Piney Point area. Around 625 million liters were discharged into the port of Manatee in a controlled manner, another part into a separate basin. The water is constantly checked for dangerous residues, it said.

According to the authorities, the wastewater in the basin has a higher content of phosphorus and nitrogen, but is therefore neither toxic nor radioactive. However, this could lead to increased algae formation and thus to fish deaths in Tampa Bay.

Local politicians are now proposing to completely close and renovate the 1960s facility. The cost is estimated at around $ 200 million. There were also calls for the current owner to be held accountable. The company rejected this, however, as the newspaper “Tampa Bay Times” reported. As a reason, the company said it had only bought the site in 2006, but the cladding of the pool was from the time before.

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