Florida: Toxic Wastewater Leak Demonstrates Pitfalls of Capitalist System

By Jakob Stein

Over the past week, hundreds of residents in Manatee County, Florida, just outside of Tampa, were evacuated from their homes as a state of emergency was declared due to a leak in a toxic wastewater reservoir that was on the verge of collapsing. The rush to evacuate residents and drain the reservoir before it caused a complete catastrophe is a perfect display of the shortsightedness of the capitalist system and the greed of the private corporations that run it.

The reservoir in question is used for wastewater storage by the former Piney Point fertilizer plant, currently owned by HRK Holdings. The facility has experienced leaks in the past—in 2011, a breach caused 170 million gallons of toxic water to flood into Bishop Harbor. After contractors repaired the leak, HRK filed for bankruptcy and have been forced to sell off land in order to pay for the cleanup.

During this most recent leak, authorities have been pumping approximately 32 million gallons of toxic wastewater into Tampa Bay in order to prevent a collapse of the reservoir. While officials have assured the public that the water is not radioactive, concerns still remain that high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the water will lead to large fish kills and further disruptions of the ecosystem.

All of the above bares the ineptitude of private companies in managing these serious issues in any thoroughgoing and long-term way. The necessity to generate profit trumps any other concern for the environment or health of the people in the surrounding area. This facility has experienced issues before, and instead of actually fixing the problems a band-aid was slapped over them, creating the situation the people of Manatee County find themselves in now.

As long as short-term gain is put over everything else, we will continue to see these kinds of problems over and over again. Government regulations can only hope to slow this destructive process, and no social democrat or ‘Green New Deal’ can actually solve the problem, because its root cause lies in the very mode of production and the motivations and objective laws that govern it.


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