MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – 85-year-old Yoko Willis and her daughter live in one of the first 15 to 20 homes to fall under the Manatee County evacuation order in response to the leaking reservoir of wastewater at the Piney Point phosphogypsum stack.
Willis said she doesn’t have a big income, but “safety is most important.”
So Friday evening, as county leaders warned of a potential collapse of the nearby gyp stack, Willis and her daughter rushed to a Bradenton hotel.
She said they paid $313 out of pocket for the room, not knowing at the time what county resources were available.
“We didn’t know until the next day about the Red Cross, things like that,” Willis said.
Down the road, Brandon Brock told 8 On Your Side he is relieved after taking the risk of staying home while crews worked around the clock to prevent a bigger breach.
“I’m very happy that all the animals and the house didn’t wash away,” he said, “but there’s still a lot of stuff to answer for no doubt about it.”
Brock says he’d like to have the water from his private well tested and he’s worried about the environmental impacts at nearby fishing ponds.
After learning the location of the leak was on the southeast side of the pond, Willis and her daughter returned to their home Saturday morning. They said they were ready to evacuate again at any moment.
Now that the threat of a wastewater flood has passed, Willis said “Tonight I can still read my Bible and then thank God, pray to God.”
After 8 On Your Side contacted Manatee County public safety officials Tuesday night, Willis’ daughter said someone visited their home Wednesday and assured she would take care of the charges stemming from the hotel room.
“I’m happy to report that the amount was credited back to my credit card,” Linda Willis told 8 On Your Side. “This happened because of your interview and your advocacy on our behalf. Thank you so much for all that you did.”