Evacuations ramp up due to ‘imminent’ collapse of wastewater pond in Piney Point
MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. – Law enforcement and public safety officials ramped up evacuations in the area surrounding Piney Point in Manatee County due to an “imminent” collapse and release of the wastewater pond.
Governor Ron DeSantis issued a State of Emergency for Manatee County to ensure resources are allocated for necessary response and recovery, NBC affiliate WFLA reports. An Executive Order issued by the governor said the State of Emergency exists also in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties due to the proximity of the facility.
Manatee County Public Safety officials announced at 6 p.m. on Saturday that evacuation orders surrounding Piney Point expanded again, WFLA confirmed. The original evacuation zone expanded one-half mile west and one mile southwest to Moccasin Wallow Road.
Officials upgraded the area to a complete evacuation at 11 a.m. after engineers deemed the situation to be “escalating.” Evacuation notices were sent to anyone one mile to the north of the phosphogypsum stacks and a half-mile to the south.
Officials told WFLA late Saturday morning they believe the leaking gypsum stack could collapse at any moment.
The Manatee County Public Safety Department tweeted the first evacuation notice just after 6 p.m. Friday. Another emergency phone alert was sent out around 11 a.m. Saturday ordering people in the area to evacuate “NOW.”
Pumps are running around the clock attempting to remove as much water from the pond as quickly as possible, according to WFLA. Every moment the pond goes without a total breach in the barrier lessens the chance of a complete uncontrolled release.
Florida Highway Patrol troopers from Manatee and Hillsborough counties have closed off US 41 starting at 113th Street East extending all the way to College Avenue. Drivers are being detoured to I-75.
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