PALMETTO, Fla. —
- Manatee County leaders reopen US-41 Tuesday and lifted the evacuation order.
- A team of scientists from USF launched a research cruise into Tampa Bay at 8 a.m. to study Piney Point's environmental impact
- There has been no change in the stability of the stack, meaning the situation is not getting worse, the DEP said at the Manatee County Commissioners meeting Tuesday morning.
- A local state of emergency has been declared for Manatee County and parts of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
People who live and work near the former Piney Point phosphate processing plant in Manatee County have been told they're allowed to return after previously being instructed to get out and stay away.
State and local leaders had feared an "imminent" collapse of a retention pond at the site, but the risk has since been reduced as crews pumped out water.
In addition to a "significant leak" at the bottom of the pool holding millions of gallons of water, several small breaches had recently been found. The pool contains a mixture of process water, saltwater from the Port Manatee dredge project, rainwater and stormwater runoff.
Crews have relieved stress on the pond by releasing about 23,500 gallons a minute.
10 Tampa Bay is providing continuous coverage this week -- scroll down for the latest updates:
12:15 p.m. April 7: The Florida Senate Wednesday approved an amendment to the state budget to clean up Piney Point. The amendment allocates $3 million to the effort.
8 a.m. April 7: USF researchers set sail into Tampa Bay to study Piney Point's environmental impact.
5:17 a.m. April 7: Brightside reporter Thuy Lan Nguyen says the water is being monitored.
4 a.m. April 7: Water continues to be pumped out of the retention pond and into Tampa Bay.
4 p.m. April 6: Manatee County Commissioners announced that the mandatory evacuation order for people living in the area and business owners around Piney Point has been lifted. Officials say people can return to their homes "safely" by Tuesday evening.
Buckeye Road will remain closed to traffic for the immediate future.
Leaders say the county voted unanimously to authorize the use of a deep injection well directly south of the Piney Point site. Current and future commissioners will have full control over the well under the guidelines provided by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Environmental Protection.
10:50 a.m. April 6: US-41 has reopened after Manatee County officials met with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Emergency Management.
Leaders say they "feel confident" in reopening the highway based on updated wastewater flow modeling. Homes in the area are still under a mandatory evacuation order, and surrounding roads remain closed.