Reservoir at abandoned Florida fertilizer site in danger of uncontrolled toxic breach

Author: Annalise Porter


HOUSTON (ICIS)--A leak in a reservoir full of toxic fertilizer byproduct wastewater in Manatee County, Florida, led to emergency measures and evacuations over the weekend.

A containment leak was discovered on 26 March at the former Piney Point phosphates plant reservoir, which holds water toxic enough to kill fish and cause algae blooms. Wastewater from the reservoir is leaking into Piney Point Creek, of which Tampa Bay is the outfall.

Prior to the leak’s discovery, there were 480m gal (1.82m litres) of water in that section of the reservoir. According to the state governor’s office, as of 4 April there were 306m gal left. The rest had either leaked or been released into the Bay purposely to avoid an uncontrolled breach of the whole reservoir section.

Early Monday morning, a second breach was detected by drones being used to inspect the facility.

The Florida governor declared a State of Emergency for the county. Multiple state agencies and the National Guard have been coordinating efforts to mitigate the breach, including controlled releases of the contaminated water and airlifting pumping equipment in to help.

“At the division, we are sending every resource at our disposal to the site by truck, crane and helicopter. We have already deployed 20 pumps, 10 vacuum trucks and more than 100,000 bottles of water, with more on the way. I urge residents in the area to follow all warnings and evacuation orders from local officials as we do everything we can to keep you safe,” Florida Division of Emergency Management Director, Jared Moskowitz, said in a statement.

According to state officials, local groundwater wells are not currently in danger of being contaminated by the leak.

HRK Holdings is the current owner of the reservoir. The facility has been of concern in Florida for years after Mulberry Corporation abandoned it in 2001. After five years, HRK took over the facility from the DEP.

“Our teams are working around the clock to mitigate risks and ensure emergency preparedness in the area that could experience flooding, should an uncontrolled breach occur. It is clear that this facility must be closed. I want to assure Floridians that we are dedicated to holding HRK accountable for this issue through enforcement action,” said DEP Secretary, Noah Valenstein.