Hurricane Ian is forecast to make landfall on Florida’s west coast as a Category 3 storm

Piney Point, a former phosphate mining facility in Manatee County, Florida, is under a 24-hour watch ahead of Hurricane Ian, CBS News reports. The site hit the headlines last year when a large leak was discovered in a plaster pipe. The question led to millions of gallons of sewage entering Tampa Bay and helped contribute to the devastating months red tide the event.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried told CBS News on Tuesday that she spoke with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection earlier in the day and that they don’t think Hurricane Ian will be a “huge problem” given the current forecast.

“Based on the water that’s in Piney Point right now, they can handle about 25 inches of rain. And thinking we should get 12 to 15 inches of rain, they don’t see that as a big deal,” Freed. said.

Fried said the department told her the water had been partially treated, so even if there was an overflow, “it wouldn’t be a problem.”

However, the treatment of that water, she told CBS News, is something she “never had complete trust and confidence in.”

The site is under 24-hour surveillance, Fried said.

State special site for Piney Point’s update was last updated on Friday, saying preparations also include setting up backup pumps and adjusting water control levels. There are approximately 268 million gallons in the site’s reservoir.

According to evacuation maps in Manatee County, Piney Point is in Evacuation Zone B, meaning the area could see potential flooding of up to 14 feet.

The county issued a mandatory evacuation order Tuesday for those in Zones A and B. Those in Zone C are advised to evacuate.

The state is more concerned about construction equipment at the site, which the department is in the process of “securing” and moving off-site to avoid high winds turning the equipment into projectiles. A deep injection well, approved in December, is being built to contain the water that is in the reservoir, and the site is currently in the initial process of closing the southern bay, according to the website. Part of the process involves leveling and shaping the area so it doesn’t collect rainwater.

“The secretary seems confident that they should be fine with the amount of rain,” Fried said. “Certainly if it was head-on in 140 mph sustained winds, that would be a problem. But with the Piney Point area being the most prone to rain, he was confident they could handle the rain.”

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USA News