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Port Manatee, where water from the containment pond at the old Piney Point phosophate plant is being released into Tampa Bay. Photo: Ben Montgomery/Axios

Officials on Tuesday reopened roads and lifted the evacuation order for residents and businesses near the old Piney Point phosphate plant as they continued to pump nutrient-rich water into Tampa Bay at Port Manatee to relieve pressure on the leak and look for ways to seal it.

What's new: Manatee County commission chairwoman Vanessa Baugh said that the commission approved a nearby injection well to funnel treated water from the leak into the deep earth instead of Tampa Bay, and assured local residents that their drinking water is safe.

  • Meanwhile the water still spilling out of the wastewater pond has been diverted to another lined reservoir for storage.

Engineers will soon begin designing a submersible rover to try to find and repair the leak in the pond's liner.

  • They'll also conduct a survey to try to map the underwater features of the pond and identify problem spots.

The big picture: Officials have drained 180 million gallons from the pond, which originally held 480 million gallons. The depth as of Tuesday afternoon was just under 60 feet.

  • The environmental impact of pumping that water — a mix of rain, saltwater from a dredging project, and polluted water that's a byproduct of fertilizer production — into the bay remains unknown.
  • The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is monitoring the discharge and conducting water samples "to make sure we hold HRK fully accountable for this incident," said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein.

The bottom line: Controlling the leak and avoiding a massive breach that would flood the local area gives engineers time to find a temporary fix, then a permanent solution.

  • "I’m excited that the county is committed to making sure that this is the last chapter of this story," said Valenstein.

This story first appeared in the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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Go deeper

Piney Point disaster averted for now, seepage continues

A satallite image of the holding ponds at Piney Point near Palmetto. Credit: Google Maps satellite image

Emergency management officials working around the clock appear to have once again postponed a catastrophic environmental disaster at the old Piney Point phosphate plant where a huge man-made pond holding contaminated water is threatening to collapse.

Driving the news: Starting last week, a series of leaks developed in the walls of the abandoned phosphate production site’s largest pond, which originally contained about 480 million gallons of both saltwater — from dredging in the bay — and process water, the contaminated water from fertilizer production.

Downtown Tampa really wants a Target

Expand chart
Data: Tampa Downtown Partnership; Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Downtown Tampa residents and workers want a Target, according to a recent survey by the Tampa Downtown Partnership.

  • Asked what big-box retailer they craved, 40% said Target. It was trailed by Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Publix, Costco, Walmart and Aldi — none of which cracked 5%.
  • Of note: 33% said they didn't want any big-box store at all.

This story first appeared in the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

Updated 13 mins ago - World

Over 70 dead in worst bombardments between Israel and Hamas for years

Palestinian Muslims exchange wishes for Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, near a razed building in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia, on May 13. Israeli forces said they had killed a senior Hamas commander in May 12 airstrikes. Gaza's health ministry said children died in the strikes. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

At least 67 Palestinians and seven Israelis have been killed in fighting between Israel's military and Hamas since Monday, per Reuters.

The big picture: The worst aerial exchanges of fire between Israel and Hamas since 2014 continued into early Thursday. It comes days after escalating violence in Jerusalem that injured hundreds of Palestinians and several Israeli police officers during protests over the planned evictions of Palestinian families from their homes.