MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Crews are bringing in extra equipment to help pump more water out of the leaking Piney Point reservoir.
Below are the latest reactions from several Florida government officials as well as the up-to-date information regarding the situation at Piney Point.
Evacuation orders lifted
Manatee County officials have lifted the evacuation order and have announced residents and business owners can return home tonight following new efforts.
Officials said reservoir leak continue, but the amount of water escaping has been decreased by the pumping effort.
Some road closures along Buckeye Road will remain in place. FedEx vehicles will be able to access the FedEx distribution center off U.S. 41 via Buckeye Road.. The County’s Emergency Operations Center will transition to a Level 2 activation with only essential personnel at the EOC.
Officials reopened US-41 Tuesday after local and state officials expressed confidence in the latest developments of the wastewater leak.
The US Army Corps of Engineers, DEP and Manatee County Public Safety officials met and determined it was safe to reopen US-41, which was shut down over the weekend as part of an evacuation zone put in place.
While the highway reopened, the evacuation zone remains in effect.
100 million gallons of water to be pumped out of leaking reservoir each day
Authorities have been working around the clock to drain the pond, which is now holding less than 300 million gallons of contaminated water. The controlled release will lessen the chance of a full breach and hopefully stop millions of gallons of water from spilling into nearby homes and businesses.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers were brought in by the federal government to help. Crews are using more water pumps that will allow them to drain 100 million gallons each day instead of just 35 million.
“There is probably just shy of 300 million gallons of water remaining and by the assessment we’ll have a much clearer picture of the current status,” said Dr. Scott Hopes, Manatee County Administrator. “We have an entirely new team doing an in depth assessment. Now we have Army Corps engineers and they have incredible expertise.”
The evacuation order issued by Manatee County remains in effect. The road into the evacuation zone, northbound U.S. Highway 41, remains closed. Only crews working at Piney Point and Port Manatee are allowed to enter.
Although authorities are mostly concerned about controlling the leak, many in the area are worried the solution to fixing the breach could create more problems in the future with millions of contaminated water being dumped into the local ecosystem.
“I don’t think it’s a question of dollars and cents, I think we are going to figure out what it takes and make sure we’ve got the resources to fix this permanently, not a patch,” said U.S. Representative Vern Buchanan.