‘Public health and safety is the top priority’: Gov. DeSantis addresses plan for Piney Point wastewater breach

Manatee County

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addressed the Piney Point wastewater leak at the Manatee County Emergency Operation Center Sunday, a day after declaring a state of emergency for the area.

DeSantis said the controlled discharge of the reservoir is about 35 million gallons per day, all being drained into Port Manatee. About 340 million gallons remain. The governor said the National Guard will be flying more pumps in Sunday to assist with the water relocation.

“What we’re looking at now is trying to prevent and respond to if need be a real catastrophic flood situation,” DeSantis said. “Public health and safety is the top priority.”

“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,” said Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz.

Governor DeSantis went on an aerial tour of the site Sunday with emergency management and DEP officials. He says his administration will hold the company, HRK Holdings, accountable.

“It’s not acceptable, I’ve asked the secretary to work with Manatee County and use all available resources to form a permanent solution to this long-standing issue,” DeSantis said. “Our administration is dedicated to full enforcement of any damages to our state’s resources and holding the company HRK accountable for this event.”

Governor DeSantis stressed that the water being discharged to Port Manatee is not radioactive, but primarily saltwater mixed with process water and storm water runoff.

In the event of a full breach, Acting County Administrator Scott Hopes told reporters it could result in the surge of a 20-feet high wall of water in less than an hour.

Regardless, Hopes said they feel “much better” than they did three days ago.

County leaders are already looking at a permanent solution at the reservoir so this won’t happen again in the future.

Hopes says a permanent solution would include filling and then capping the ponds after the water is released.

“I do believe with this action that we are in the best condition to avoid a catastrophic failure,” Hopes said. “I think all agencies are committed to a permanent resolution to this. Absolutely, this could’ve been resolved over two decades ago.”

Manatee County Public Safety officials announced at 6 p.m. Saturday that the evacuation orders surrounding Piney Point had been expanded again. The original evacuation zone expanded one-half mile west and one mile southwest to Moccasin Wallow Road, impacting over 300 residences.

“If you’re in an evacuation area and you have not headed that you need to think twice,” Hopes said.

“Our focus is on supporting a controlled discharge of water from the site,” Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Noah Valenstein said.

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