Florida residents were allowed to return home on Tuesday after being forced to evacuate when a breach in a 79-acre reservoir containing sewage south of Tampa raised the threat of a collapse that could trigger a 20 foot water wall.
The announcement came after officials spent Monday assessing the potential for a second breach in the leaking reservoir, which was ruled out at the end of the day.
In a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Scott Hopes, the interim Manatee County administrator, said that due to the additional pumps and the diversion of water from an uncontrolled breach, residents would be allowed to return home. More than 300 houses were subject to compulsory evacuation orders.
“We believe the risk has been successfully mitigated and mitigated,” said Hopes.
On March 26, when the leak was reported, the reservoir, which was part of a pond system connected to a former phosphate mine in Piney Point, Fla., Contained approximately 480 million gallons of sewage.
With the water volume at 340 million gallons on Sunday, Mr Hopes warned that models suggested that if the tank gave in to that volume, it could result in a cascading “20-foot wall of water” in residential areas. and commercial.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said on Tuesday that about 303 million gallons of water remained in the tank and that until Tuesday afternoon, about 165 million gallons had been released. The ministry also said the area’s water will be sampled to assess its quality.
At the press conference, Vanessa Baugh, chairperson of the Manatee County Commission, said the county council unanimously authorized the use of a deep injection well on county property. This would give county commissioners full control over the well in the future and allow the county to dictate the quality of the water before it enters the well.
“In other words, residents and business owners of North Manatee can rest assured,” Ms. Baugh said. “I am so happy that the disruption of life – or life – as usual in Northern Manatee is minimal.
Mr Hopes said that while concerns remained about the impact of the leak on the environment, the water flow appeared to be at a rate officials hoped could be diluted and handled properly.
“We are very, very optimistic that we have managed to minimize the impact,” Hopes said, adding that the drinking water was safe. “I think everyone should be assured that this is very much under control now. The risk has been reduced. “
During the press conference, Mr Hopes empathized with the residents who were forced to evacuate, but was grateful that there had not been a major breach.
“It was difficult for everyone involved. It has been stressful for the people of Manatee County, ”said Hopes. “I hope that tonight many of us – I know I will – sleep better. I can really sleep, and I’m sure the others who were involved.