PALMETTO, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – Residents who were previously evacuated near the Piney Point reservoir are able to return home as of Tuesday evening.
Manatee County experts determined it’s now safe for the evacuation order to be lifted and for Highway 41, a main road for businesses and commercial traffic in the area, to reopen.READ MORE: Polk County To Shutter COVID-19 Vaccination Portal
Local officials say they are confident in the latest Piney Point outflow model, which is moving the water to several locations, like Tampa Bay, treatment facilities and an unused 35 million gallon pond nearby. It would seem the feared 20 foot wall of water has been avoided.
Manatee County Commissioner, James Satcher, says “Our water quality is of utmost importance. We need safety and we need to feel good about where we live.” Public safety was the primary focus, but soon, Satcher says that focus will soon adjust to water quality after gaining better control of the situation. “We are going to shift to keeping as much water out of the bay as possible and any water that does go into the bay, we are going to make sure it’s as clean as possible.”
But first, the goal is to get the 300 million gallons of water that’s left in the Piney Point reservoir removed to avoid a previously-predicted 20-foot tidal wave.
John Truitt with the Department of Environmental Protection says “Two large 18-inch pumps should be connected and running by early [Tuesday], again focusing on that moving of additional water to control discharge. We have two to three boats a day out in the water collecting water samples.”READ MORE: Ad Hoc Gasparilla-Style Events Invade Tampa Bay Saturday
Even though there’s still a possibility for the retention pond wall to collapse, local leaders say there’s a lot less water and it’s moving at a much slower, controlled speed.
Jacob Saur, Manatee County Director of Public Safety says “All of the inundation is less than a foot in those areas. Most of that is farmland, lakes and low-lined areas that are able to take that water.”
Kevin Guthrie with the Emergency Response Team says on Wednesday, teams will be sent out to the Piney Point reservoir and they will attempt to locate the breach and start patching it up.
In simple terms, there’s still a lot of work to be done.MORE NEWS: Church Pastor & A Coach Among 79 Arrested In Sex-Trafficking Sting
Dr. Scott Hopes, Manatee County Administrator, says “A critical factor is to get our economic drivers back online through the U.S. 41 thoroughfare and businesses impacted by the evacuation order.” Water samples are being collected regularly to see how the reservoir water will impact Tampa Bay, but the long-term effects are very much unknown at this time.