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'We Need Everyone': Ocean Conservancy Speaks on Florida Wastewater Leak

Manatee County, Fla. (CW44 News at 10) - Local water conservation groups are calling on the Federal Government and politicians to step up during what is being called one of Florida's biggest environmental emergencies.

"It's an all-hands-on-deck moment." Florida water conservation groups say they are looking for answers after a leak in the wall liner of a Manatee County reservoir caused a partial breach. Officials could pump millions of gallons of wastewater into the Tampa Bay to help relieve pressure and reduce potential for an even larger breach.

"We're concerned about those impacts of that wastewater on fish, on marine mammals, on sea grass," said J.P. Brooker, Director, Ocean Conservancy's Florida Conservation Program. Headquartered in Washington D.C., Ocean Conservancy says they have a key focus on Florida at all times. Director of that program, and Florida native, J.P. Brooker says it's personal for him. "I'm just passionate about Florida's marine environment so that's why I work for Ocean Conservancy and why I do what I do in Florida." He pinpoints exactly where federal government officials can start with 300 million gallons of toxic wastewater. "It would be great if the EPA or someone else from the Federal Government could step in and do supplemental water quality monitoring to see what the actual impacts on marine environment are going to be."

Next, he's calling on Florida representatives currently deliberating on environmental legislation in Tallahassee. "We're at a unique time. We're right in the middle of the Florida legislative session and now is a great time for the legislature to act on these phosphogypsum stacks and do something to clean up Piney Point."

State representatives have taken to social media about the industrial plant site since hearing of mandatory evacuations over the weekend.

U.S. Congressman Vern Buchanan posted a photo of the plant site from above while representative Darren Soto also aimed to shed light on the issue via Twitter.

Senator Marco Rubio issued a statement Monday saying his office is in direct communication with both the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Manatee County and that he stands ready to facilitate any response.

"It's basically everyone. We need everyone to get involved on this," said Brooker.

Ocean Conservancy tells CW44 News they are working with a local university on supplemental water quality testing in addition to what the D.E.P. is already doing. Make sure to stick with CW44 News for this developing story.

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