Where is Piney Point & Why Does It Have Toxic Waste Water?

Piney Point Florida Map

A leak at an old phosphate plant site has threatened Tampa Bay for the last week with environmental catastrophe. Here we break down the pieces involved.

It used to be a fertilizer manufacturing facility. Industrial byproducts of that process are still stored on site. That includes polluted water and phosphogypsum, a substance kept in stacks and monitored for its radioactivity. Managing those materials is expensive and hasn’t always gone well at Piney Point. Past discharges have hit the valuable waters of Bishop Harbor. Excess nutrients from wastewater can feed harmful algal blooms, which lead to fish kills.

What’s a phosphogypsum stack?

Drive through Central Florida and you might see one. They rise like large, flat-topped hills above an otherwise level state.

Phosphogypsum is a leftover from processing phosphate, which is part of making fertilizer.

The Environmental Protection Agency has a webpage all about it, noting that “phosphate rock mining is the fifth-largest mining industry in the United States in terms of the amount of material mined.”

It’s a big business in Florida, a hub for fertilizer production. One of Tampa’s biggest companies is Mosaic, a miner.

Phosphate rock, according to federal regulators, contains phosphorus and also uranium and radium. Phosphorus is what fertilizer manufacturers want. They dissolve the rock “in an acidic solution” and that leaves phosphogypsum. Think of a slurry that dries out, creating what the government refers to as “a crust, which blocks most of the radon.”

“Most of the naturally-occurring uranium, thorium, and radium found in phosphate rock ends up in this waste,” the Environmental Protection Agency says. “Uranium and thorium decay to radium and radium decay to radon, a radioactive gas. Because the wastes are concentrated, phosphogypsum is more radioactive than the original phosphate rock.”

Where does water come in?

Ponds of wastewater are sometimes stored atop phosphogypsum stacks. They may hold rainwater, as well as what’s known as process water — left by fertilizer production. Process water is acidic and carries nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. The Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute explains that if a plant shuts down, that water has to “be treated before it can be discharged.” In 1997, a wastewater overflow at Piney Point’s sister plant in Polk County sparked a devastating fish kill in the Alafia River.

It’s a mix of seawater from an old dredging project that Piney Point’s operator — with the support of public officials — agreed to take on about a decade ago, putting more water on the site; rainwater; and remnant process water from the fertilizer operation.

Estimates suggest there were 480 million gallons of wastewater in the reservoir when the leak began. It is unclear how much could be drained or if the reservoir will collapse before the current incident ends.

County officials have said they are hopeful that even if the reservoir that is leaking bursts completely, other ponds on the site might not follow in the collapse. But they said some of those ponds might have more contamination, whereas the reservoir at the center of the current incident has had fish living in it.

Are there any power plant wastewater ponds nearby?  

My first reaction when I heard this story is that I thought it was from a power plant.  Here is a map of map of power plants in Florida. Thankfully no as you can see by this map below.  




Tips To Protect Yourself And Your Home From A Wildfire

What To Do In The Case Of A Wildfire

What To Do In The Case Of A Wildfire

With 2020 bringing some of the worst wildfires on record, ravaged land, homes, and lives all the way from Australia to California, its more important than ever to be prepared if you live in a hot area where these things occur. But just what can you do if you are faced with an uncontrollable wildfire on your doorstep?

Human Lives Come First

The lives of yourself, your family, and your friends (and animals)must come first in the event of a wildfire. While losing your home and all your possessions is devastating, these things can eventually be replaced. If you see a fire, make sure it has been reported and ensure you listen to the instruction of emergency officials. They know what they are doing and won’t advise you to evacuate if you don’t need to. Follow what they say and don’t try to be a hero. You could just end up getting in the way and cause more harm than good.

Protect Your Home

If you have time when evacuating, there are a few things that you can do to protect your home. Turn off all gas and propane at the meter and make sure all pilot lights are switched off. Next, turn on all the interior and exterior lights in your house. This will make your home easier to spot in the heavy smoke caused by wildfires. Remove wooden furniture and combustible trash, and doormats away from the doors and windows.

You can also remove any kindling, firewood, pine needles, or dead leaves around the house if you have the time. Finally, wet down your house using lawn sprinkles and hoses. The roof and any vegetation within 15 feet of your home should be wet down but don’t leave these running as you can affect the area’s water pressure.

Before you leave, also make it easy for firefighters to get in. Leave doors and gates unlatched. Connect your garden hoses to your outside taps and leave buckets of water lying around for firefighters to use. You can also put any ladders you have outside in case firefighters need to use them to get onto your roof.

Don’t Start A Wildfire

While this may seem obvious, if you live in an area prone to wildfires, make sure you don’t inadvertently cause one yourself. Humans are the main cause of wildfires and while arson is occasionally the cause of devastating fires, accidents are just as common.

Cigarettes that are poorly disposed of by simply being tossed on the ground or out of a car window, can quickly cause fires. These partially lit buds can cause serious damage. Cigarettes should always be properly extinguished before disposable before being thrown away in a sealed container. Unattended campfires can also have disastrous consequences, so don’t leave them alone to play online.

Campfires or even fire pits near or in among the trees always need to be unattended to and extinguished properly at the end of an evening. Fireworks and flares also should never be handled by amateurs as they can lead to injury and of course, fires.

The World’s Worst Earthquakes Of 2020

The Worst Earthquakes of 2020

The Worst Earthquakes of 2020

Natural disasters seem to be part and parcel of 2020, making it the worst year on record for many. Earthquakes stretched the far reaches of the world this year, all the way from China to bucket list destinations like the Caribbean, and Iran, Russia, Philippines, India, and Turkey. In 2020, 45 earthquakes with over 6 magnitudes were recorded. Here are some of the worst:

January Earthquake in Turkey

A magnitude 6.7 earthquake that hit Turkey on the 24th of January is responsible for claiming the lives of 41 people and injuring over 1,600 others. The country’s eastern provinces of Elazig and Malatya provinces were the hardest hit with thousands of residents displaced from their homes, although the earthquake was also felt in the neighboring countries of Armenia, Syria, and Iran. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only earthquake to hit the region in 2020, with it lying on the active North Anatolian Fault, between the Anatolian and Eurasian tectonic plates.

Earthquake and Tsunami Together

On the 30th of October 2020, Turkey was again struck by another earthquake, this time in the Izmir province. The magnitude 7 earthquake also hit the Greek island of Samos, resulting in a tsunami that brought with it further destruction. In total 119 lives were lost in the natural disaster, some 1,034 were injured, many buildings were damaged or collapsed, and rescue efforts were extensive.

The earthquake was the deadliest of the year and the most powerful recorded in the Aegean Sea since 1981. Prior to this, the deadliest earthquake in Turkey’s Izmir province occurred in 1955 with a 6.6 magnitude quake that claimed the lives of four people.  

Earthquake at Russia's Kuril Islands

A 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck Russia’s Kuril Islands on the 25th of March 2020. A volcanic archipelago, the Kuril Islands stretch approximately 1,300 km northeast of Hokkaido and contain some 56 islands. While the earthquake generated Tsunami warnings and a possible threat to Japan, but thankfully no casualties were reported.

Alaska Peninsula Earthquake

On the 21st of July, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck undersea, some 65 miles off the coast of Alaska. Although this was the strongest earthquake recorded in 2020 by magnitude, it caused severe damages. It did however prompt the evacuation of several coastal areas as a preventative measure in the case of a tsunami. The fact that there wasn’t one was as lucky as the players that check this site.  

Mexico’s Oaxaca earthquake

A magnitude 7.4 earthquake struck the Mexican state of Oaxaca on the 23rd of June 2020. The quake, whose epicenter was recorded near San Miguel del Puerto, was felt by close to 50 million people in both Mexico and Guatemala. Thousands of homes were damaged as a result of the earthquake, and 10 deaths were recorded.  

Iran Earthquake

On the 23rd of February, an earthquake near Khoy in north-west Iran was recorded at a magnitude of 5.8. The earthquake, whose epicenter was Qotur district, took the lives of 9 people in Ba┼čkale in the Van province of neighboring Turkey. Just as the area as recovering, a magnitude 6 earthquake hit the same place about 10 hours after the first.

The Most Devastating Fires Of 2020

Map of The World's Worst Fires of 2020

The World's Worst Fires of 2020

From Australia to the Americas, 2020 saw some parts of the world completely ravaged by fire. As communities continue to press upon wild areas, it seems that fires are becoming worse and worse, with their consequences never more devastating.

Climate change is also leading to hotter climates, causing dried-out grasses and forest debris to fuel these fires further, putting more and more homes and lives in harm’s way.

California Fires

2020 heralded five of the six largest fires to ever burn in California. These fires covered an area of over four million acres. This was double the two-million-acre record set in 2018. August was the worst month by far, with that fire covering more than one million acres alone. The fire’s biggest casualty was the Big Basin Redwoods State Park, which is California’s oldest state park at 118 years in the making.

Map of the United States Worst Fires of 2020

Colorado Cameron Peak Fire

The state of Colorado in North America recorded their largest ever fire in October of 2020 with the Cameron Peak Fire. More than 208,000 acres burned in this fire beating the Pine Gulch Fire record which was set just two months prior.

The Australian Bushfires

The biggest fire of 2020, and the second largest of the 21st century was no doubt the Australian Bushfires. Although fires began to burn in Australia back in 2019, they continued to wreak havoc in the country until around March 2020, particularly in the state of New South Wales.

The fires marked one of the worst seasons on record for Australia, leading to the deaths of at least 478 people, the destruction of over 5,900 buildings, and a burned area that extended beyond 18 million acres. The wildfires also had a serious effect on the wildlife of Australia, killing at least 5,000 endemic koala bears, the equivalent of 12% of the population.

Canary Island Fires

In February of 2020, strong winds, fires, and sandstorms ripped throughout the Canary Islands. The fires, which centered around the tourist areas of Gran Canaria and Tenerife, left thousands of tourists stranded, burned several homes and more than 300 hectares of land. More than 500 residents also needed to be evacuated.

Poland Fires

In April of this year, thousands of hectares of the land went up in smoke in Poland’s biggest national park, Biebrza National Park. The fire was said to have the best odds of being started by farmers who were illegally burning grass and exacerbated by the drought in Poland, the worst the country experienced in years.

Amazon Rainforest

While the Amazon Rainforest experiences fire every year, fires in the region rose by 20% in 2020 with a staggering 2,248 fires detected in the year. This marks some of the worst fires in over a decade, with fires predominately spread over two months between August and September, whereas in previous years only a single month high was recorded.

The Amazon is also in the throes of a bad drought, which only served to exacerbate the problem, causing more burning of virgin forest, rather than just being contained to farming areas.

Strange Weather And Natural Disasters Of 2020

The Weirdest Natural Disasters of 2020

The Weirdest Natural Disasters of 2020

2020 was one of the most devastating on record, not just because of the pandemic but also because of the wide range of natural disasters that shook the world. These included devastating bush fires in Australia and California, one of the worst Atlantic hurricane seasons in history, and several volcanoes, flash floods, and earthquakes. There was also a fair share of weird and wonderful occurrences. Let’s look at some of the weirdest natural disasters of 2020:

The Snow Goes Green In Antarctica

Parts of snow-covered Antarctica turned green this year in a response to climate change. Warmer temperatures and melting snow resulted in blooms of algae which resulted in massive green patches forming across the winter wonderland. These algal blooms expanded at such a high rate and became so prolific that they were even visible from space.

green snow Antarctica

green snow Antarctica

Locusts Swam Africa and Asia

Locust swarms are not just something that happened in Biblical days. 2020 saw millions of desert locusts swam over India and East Africa. Making their way from East Africa, through Pakistan and onto the Indian states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, the locusts caused severe damage to crops. Although not a direct threat to humans, locusts are some of the most destructive creatures in the world, capable of devouring large sections of crops and grasses.

The swarms were one of the worst pest attacks in over two decades and caused destruction in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, South Sudan, and Yemen. Somalia called a state of national emergency in the wake of the infestation with food security under serious threat. Again, this natural disaster has been attributed to climate change and an increase in temperatures and unusually heavy rains which have made the locusts breed and swarm in numbers. If you’re looking for better news, register here.

A Bomb Cyclone In Canada

While Atlantic Canada is known for some hectic storms, Newfoundland was hit by a record-setting bomb cyclone on the 17th of January 2020. The cyclone brought with it the highest daily snowfall on record, covering St John’s in 30 inches of snow.

Bomb cyclones are storms that intensify very quickly, generally causing massive wind spirals at their base. This was the case in Canada where winds of 97 mph caused snowdrifts to form, some reaching 15 feet high. Vehicles, roads, and homes were buried in snow and a small avalanche even caused devastation in one resident’s home.

Midwest US Experiences Sahara Sandstorm

Africa’s Sahara Desert is no stranger to sandstorms and every sorry often plumes of air, laden with sand travel across the ocean during hurricane season. These sandstorms have even been known to reach the Caribbean and the Gulf Coast in the summer months. However, in June of 2020 a particularly dense dust plume made its way over to Puerto Rico, and even reached as far as parts of Midwest, United States, causing hazy skies over parts of Nebraska. This was one of the most magnificent Sahara dust events recorded in decades.

The World’s Worst Storms Of 2020

World Hurricanes Map

The Most Dangerous Storms of 2020

2020 was a horrific year for many with death and disease some of the most talked-about subjects this year. However, for many, the weather also presented itself in the extreme in 2020, causing absolute havoc to land, livestock, livelihoods, and lives, with severe storms that all but destroyed. Let’s look back at some of the worst storms to hit the world in 2020.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season

The Atlantic Hurricane Season was no doubt one of the worst on record. 2020 marked the only second time in history that the entire alphabetical list of hurricane names was used up. This meant that the Greek alphabet needed to be used to name future storms from as early as the 18th of September. 2020 heralded 30 named storms, which are storms that reached 39 to 73 miles per hour, 13 hurricanes, and six major hurricanes.

Atlantic Hurricanes Map 2020

Canada was largely unaffected, but Florida was one of the hardest-hit areas in the United States, with the record-breaking Tropical Storm Eta being the 12th storm to hit the United States in a single season. Before 2020, 1916 saw the most storms of one season, with nine recorded. Louisiana however recorded the most ever storms in one season in a single state, with five in 2020. Hurricane Laura, which hit southwest Louisiana on the 27th of August as a category 4 storm was the most damaging and strongest of the US storms.

September was the worst month with 10 named storms recorded in this month alone. In fact, three storms, namely Wilfred, Alpha and Beta, all formed on the same day on the 18th of September. 2020 also brought on a category 5 Hurricane in November with Hurricane Iota.

Hurricane’s Eta and Iota

It wasn’t just the United States that experienced the devastation of 2020’s hurricanes. Hurricane Eta made landfall in November in Nicaragua bringing with it large amounts of rainfall for an extended period. This caused massive flooding in large parts of Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Panama resulting in the loss of 215 people with another 49 missing.

Just two weeks after the devastating effects of Hurricane Eta, Hurricane Iota arrived. The storm made landfall just 15 miles from Eta’s location in a completely unprecedented event, again bringing with it torrential rains. Combined tolls from the two hurricanes left more than 300 dead or missing and an impact of around $738 million on the country. In Honduras, damages from the hurricanes exceeded $10 billion, which is a sizeable sum even by the standard of mega casino bonuses. $10 billion  is around 40% of the country’s GDP. This set the poverty-stricken nation back about 22 years in economic development.

Typhoon Vamco

Across the world in the Philippines, Typhoon Vamco caused devastation in Manila on the 13th of November. The typhoon was the 21st to hit the country in 2020 and no doubt the deadliest, killing over 40 people. It also resulted in some of the worst flooding the country has ever seen. Unfortunately, Vamco was subsequently followed by Typhoon Goni, the strongest Typhoon of the year which only compounded the damage already caused. 

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