Florida governor declares state of emergency amid fears of reservoir collapse

Piney Point Reservoir

© Photograph: Tiffany Tompkins/AP The old Piney Point phosphate mine in Bradenton, Florida.

County officials say well water remains unaffected and there is no threat to Lake Manatee, the area's primary source of drinking water.

Scott Hopes, the acting county administrator, warned at the press conference that despite a low population density, the nearby area could be overwhelmed by a sudden collapse of the 77-acre pond, even though discharges had lessened the quantity of remaining water. More than 300 homes have been evacuated, he added.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Sunday headed for the site of a defunct phosphate plant south of Tampa, where a leak at a waste water reservoir forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes and threatened to flood the area and Tampa Bay with polluted water. The Florida governor said a possible flood is a bigger concern than the quality of water.

Aerial images aired on local television showed water pouring from leaks in the walls of the retention pond.

Another fear has been the water leaking or overflowing into Tampa Bay that is right next to it.

Hopes said he hoped the emergency would inspire a permanent fix for phosphate stacks following decades of neglect.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
Florida Governor Ron De Santis warns of flood threat Credit Chris O'Meara AP

"Looking at the water that has been removed and the somewhat stability of the current breach, I think the team is much more comfortable today than we were yesterday", he said.

Hopes said he could not rule out that a full breach could destabilize the walls of the other ponds at the Piney Point site.

Calls to the owner of the site, HRK Holdings, for comments went unanswered Saturday and Sunday.

"The immediate evacuation of residents, disruption of families during Easter weekend, and potential environmental catastrophe requires the attention and action of Florida's statewide elected leadership", Fried said.

The pond where the leak was discovered is at the old Piney Point phosphate mine, sitting in a stack of phosphogypsum, a waste product from manufacturing fertiliser that is radioactive. "We're down to about 340m gallons that could breach in totality in a period of minutes, and the models for less than an hour are as high as a 20ft wall of water." he said.

There are at least 70 gypsum stacks in the United States and about 27 in Florida, mostly in the region of west-central Florida.


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