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U.S. 41 Reopens Near Piney Point; Additional Pumps Being Installed To Stave Off Potential Breach

U.S. 41 in Manatee County will reopen immediately, one week after it was shut down as part of an evacuation due to the leak at the Piney Point processing plant.

Manatee County Public Safety officials announced the reopening Tuesday after consulting with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Emergency Management, according to a news release.

An evacuation order remains in effect for residents near the plant.

Engineers and specialists with the Department of Environmental Protection and other agencies returned to the plant Tuesday morning, and engineers have been working around the clock to stabilize the leak and avoid catastrophic flooding.

During Tuesday morning's Manatee County Commission meeting, County Administrator Scott Hopes said the Department of Emergency Management coordinated the installation of around 26 pumps to release water from the reservoir.

While the Manatee County Emergency Operations Center remains at a Level 1 full activation with all emergency support functions reporting to the state EOC, Hopes said he believes "that may change later in the day when we get the determination that we may longer be at risk of a full breach."

According to a Monday afternoon update from the DEP:

  • The additional pumps are being installed after reports that a drone discovered a possible second breach at the plant, which the DEP said were “unsubstantiated.”
  • In addition to monitoring conditions, crews will be examining an area where there is “concentrated seepage” from one of the site’s walls that is being contained within the plant, according to the release.
  • Crews will also study 11 locations near the plant to test water quality, including oxygen and nutrient levels. While those results will be available in the coming days, officials say samples taken from the site conclude the water is not radioactive.


ALSO READ: Piney Point Wastewater Dump Could Be Largest In Tampa Bay History

The flow going into the bay would be increased to between 75 and 100 million gallons a day when all the pumps are operating, Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes said Monday.

Also Monday, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan toured the area by helicopter and said federal resources were committed to assisting the effort to control the 77-acre reservoir.

"Everybody might be well intended, but this is something that's been going on for too long," Buchanan said during a news conference Monday. "And we're going to come together, I think, collectively, between the county and the state and the federal government, to make sure we get this resolved quickly."

"Enough's enough. So I'm angry about it, quite frankly, and I'm going to bring that intensity to make sure that we're doing what we've got to do to get this fixed."

State and local agencies will provide additional updates during a press conference at 4 p.m.

This is a developing story. Stay with WUSF for updates.

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