SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Manatee County officials held a press conference on Friday night concerning the leak at Piney Point.
County Administrator Scott Hopes said during the briefing that they believe that, along with a number of small breaches, that there is a significant leak at the bottom of the retention pond.
On Friday afternoon, Manatee County had made residents and businesses near the area evacuate.
An emergency alert was sent out to residents in affected areas, including Buckeye Road and Bud Rhoden Road.
The initial evacuation area was a half-mile radius from the former phosphate plant. That was then amended to one mile north of Piney Point.
FedEx, which is right near the evacuation area, is still being allowed to operate.
When asked about the evacuations and if a full breach could occur, Hopes said, “We don’t want people in the area should that full breach occur.”
Hopes said that, at the current flow rate, the county can rapidly deplete the water and pressure to prevent a full breach. He then said this process could take 10 to 12 days.
The pool that is being drained is the retention pool that has processed water and saltwater. That water was removed during the dredging of Pier 12, according to Hopes.
When asked if the water was contaminated, Hopes responded, “I wouldn’t drink it.”
Right now, it appears the flow rate would not disrupt the other two pools that contain “additional solutions,” Hopes said.
Hopes said they are releasing 22,000 gallons of water per minute. But, the retention area is holding around 700 to 800 million gallons of water. Officials did say that everything flowing is heading in the right path.
According to Hopes, this cycle will result in a permanent solution. “We will not let up until this entire area is void of this... waste,” he said.
The state worked with the county on Friday to move this forward, according to Hopes.
When asked why it had gotten to this point, Hopes responded, “This is my second day on the job.” He then went on to say that the state is helping the county with this. He believes resolution will be given to residents and those in the Tampa Bay area.
Sen. Jim Boyd was at the press conference, and he said it is a legislative priority to resolve this issue. It has been on the agenda in Tallahassee, and Boyd said they had asked for funding, before the current situation, to get this resolved.
He went on to say that they are on top of this situation from a funding standpoint in Tallahassee. He told reporters that they had tried to get this fixed years ago, but that, unfortunately, did not happen.
Rep. Will Robinson, also on scene, said that the first priority is getting through the emergency at hand. He also said that the endless debate on what should be done with this property needs to come to an end.
“I don’t care if this is private property, “said Robinson. “Now, this property has to finally be cleaned up.”
The 311 Team in the county is taking calls from residents and business owners in the area who are concerned about the evacuations.