Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

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.

  • On Friday, officials began frantically pumping the water from the pond into Tampa Bay at Port Manatee to try to reduce the pressure on the leaks.
  • They also began adding earthen reinforcement outside the pond to try to slow the seepage.

Why it matters: On Sunday, officials feared a worst-case scenario if a total breach developed: uncontrolled spurts of water could destabilize gypsum stacks containing radioactive material, and send as much as 20 feet of contaminated water flooding from the site.

  • Earlier in the weekend, officials had evacuated the area within about a mile of the site — five miles across Tampa Bay from Ft. DeSoto Park — where more than 300 people live.

The good news: No news. At a Sunday afternoon press conference, Manatee County officials said no uncontrolled leaks had developed.

  • Additional pumps were added to the berm around the pond, and pumping into Tampa Bay has reduced the total amount of contaminated water in the pond to less than 300 million gallons, said acting Manatee County administrator Scott Hopes.
  • The state DEP is monitoring coastal waters to catch any impacts to our environment and to make sure the state holds site owner HRK Holdings responsible for negative impacts, said agency head Noah Valenstein.

What's new: The possibility of collapse is still real. "We’re not out of the critical area yet," Hopes said. "We believe that by Tuesday we’ll be in a much better position and the risk will decrease dramatically."

Of note: "Manatee County utility customers can rest assured that their drinking water is completely safe to drink," said Manatee County commission chair Vanessa Baugh.

Flashback: For decades, environmentalists and regulators have warned that the site was a ticking time bomb.

  • A subsidiary of Borden, the milk company, built the plant in 1966, per the Tampa Bay Times, and soon was caught dumping waste into Bishop Harbor. More dumping occurred in February 1970, creating a series of fish kills that extended through the summer.
  • The plant changed hands at least four times, and through it all toxic leaks sickened workers, killed cattle and drove neighbors from their homes.

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.

Not a valid email format.
Not a valid email format.
Server error. Please try a different email.
Not a valid email format.
Not a valid email format.
Server error. Please try a different email.
Not a valid email format.
Not a valid email format.
Server error. Please try a different email.
Not a valid email format.
Not a valid email format.
Server error. Please try a different email.
Not a valid email format.
Not a valid email format.
Server error. Please try a different email.

Go deeper

DeSantis declares state of emergency over leak at Tampa Bay-area wastewater pond

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a news conference in Melbourne, Florida. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Saturday declared a state of emergency for Manatee County as officials warned the collapse of a gypsum stack at the Piney Point industrial site was "imminent."

The big picture: The old phosphate plant site, in operation from the 1960s until 2001, holds stacks of phosphogypsum, a byproduct of fertilizer production, and large pools of polluted water, Axios' Ben Montgomery, Selene San Felice reported. A leak was discovered in the 77-acre process water pond last week.

Florida takes measures to avoid a "catastrophic flood" at wastewater pond near Tampa

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Crews are working to prevent "a real catastrophic flood situation" and are evacuating people out of harm's way, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said during a press conference Sunday, the AP reports.

Why it matters: DeSantis declared a state of emergency on Saturday due to a leak at a wastewater pond in the Tampa area.

Several states declare emergency over Colonial Pipeline shutdown

A sign warns consumers on the avaliability of gasoline at a RaceTrac gas station in Smyrna, Georgia, on May 11. The average national price of gasoline has risen to $2.985 a gallon, Bloomberg notes. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/AFP via Getty Images

Reports of fuel shortages across the U.S. emerged on Tuesday as the national average for gasoline prices soared to its highest level since 2014 amid a key fuel pipeline shut down, per Bloomberg.

What's happening: Operator Colonial Pipeline aims to have service restored by the week's end following last Friday's ransomware attack that shut down some 5,500 miles of pipeline from Texas to New Jersey. The governors of Florida, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina declared states of emergency Tuesday due to shortage concerns.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!