Still stinky: how bad is the giant leak in Florida's sewage pond?

Tampa, Florida - Residents can return to their homes following the discovery of a leak in a wastewater pond at a former phosphate and fertilizer plant in Florida.

This aerial photo shows the site of the Piney Point wastewater release.
This aerial photo shows the site of the Piney Point wastewater release.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

The responsible authority in Manatee County lifted an evacuation order for about 300 homes and businesses on Tuesday.

Some roads were to remain closed for the time being for safety reasons.

But there were no restrictions on residents returning to their homes or businesses resuming operations, Public Safety Director Jacob Saur said.

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The leak is still not fixed, but less water is escaping, Saur told a news conference.

"We believe the hazard has been successfully contained and reduced," Acting County Administrator Scott Hopes said.

A breach had been detected last week in the basin, which is about 33 acres in size and eight feet deep.

Hopes had warned on Sunday that a total breach of the basin wall could result in a tidal wave up to 20 feet high.

About a billion gallons still in the Tampa Bay basin

Governor Ron DeSantis took to the skies during the emergency, working with state environmental officials around the clock to ensure the safety of local residents.

According to Florida's environmental authority, there are still around 300 million gallons of wastewater contaminated with phosphorus and nitrogen in the basin in the Piney Point area south of the city of Tampa.

About 625 million gallons have been discharged to the Port of Manatee in a controlled manner, according to Scott Hopes.

Although authorities say the wastewater in the basin has higher levels of phosphorus and nitrogen, they say it is neither toxic nor radioactive.

However, this could lead to increased algae formation and thus to fish kills in Tampa Bay.

Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

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