MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Residents living near the area of Piney Point in Manatee County received emergency evacuation alerts on Friday evening due to an “imminent uncontrolled release of wastewater.”
The Manatee County Public Safety Department tweeted the first evacuation notice just after 6 p.m. The initial order impacted anyone within a half-mile radius of Piney Point, south of Buckeye Road from US 41 to O’Neil Road.
The second evacuation notice was issued around 7:30 p.m. and expanded to impact anyone within a mile north of the Piney Point phosphogypsum stack.
The uncontrolled release is near the intersection of Buckeye Road and Bud Rhoden Road, affecting 15 to 20 residences.
“We believe that there is enough imminent threat from the stack that those homes south of the stack and those businesses could be affected through flooding if that, if those conditions were to worsen,” said Manatee County Director of Public Safety Jacob Surr. “Working with the Department of Environmental Protection and the state as well as HRK holdings and we’ve been working with the county administration around the clock on this matter. We just feel like there’s enough imminent threat that we needed to alert and evacuate a certain area of these residences in case that were to worsen.”
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection released a statement Friday evening shortly before the evacuation order saying, “a breakout of seepage in the east wall of the NGS South containment area was observed” around 4 p.m. Friday.
“This water is the same mixed seawater in the reservoir,” the statement read. “These discharges are currently contained in the onsite lined stormwater system. DEP’s Emergency Management staff are onsite and coordinating with Manatee County to provide assistance with an engineered blockade of natural landscape to halt the breakout to contain the system.”
A local state of emergency was declared Thursday evening by Manatee County commissioners due to a liner tear at the former phosphate plant stack on Piney Point.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection initiated an emergency controlled release of up to 480 million gallons of industrial wastewater from the stack after the discovery of a leak last week.
Officials say problems with discharges of contaminated water were first reported in the 1970s.