• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Florida declares state of emergency as reservoir holding millions of gallons of radioactive wastewater could 'collapse' at any time

Sophia Ankel,Yelena Dzhanova
·4 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Ron DeSantis
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference at the Eau Gallie High School aviation hangar in Melbourne, Florida, on March 22, 2021. Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • Gov. DeSantis declared a state of emergency after a leak was detected at an old phosphate plant pond.

  • The pond, located in Tampa Bay, stores water that contains small amounts of radium and uranium.

  • Residents living close to the reservoir received a warning via text message asking them to evacuate.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency on Saturday after a leak was detected at an old phosphate plant pond in the Tampa Bay area that could potentially lead to a dangerous acidic flood.

Residents living close to the old Piney Point phosphate mine, located north of Bradenton, near Tampa, have been asked to evacuate their homes. Those living within a half-a-mile radius of the reservoir received a text message alert on Saturday notifying them the collapse was "imminent," the Guardian reported.

State officials said they first discovered the leak on Friday. It was located in one wall of the 77-acre pond that holds about 600 million gallons of water, containing phosphorus, nitrogen, and small amounts of radium and uranium.

The stacks can also release large concentrations of radon gas.

Read more: People flocked to Florida and Texas for a lower cost of living during the pandemic. Some were shocked when their healthcare got way more expensive.

"A portion of the containment wall at the leak site shifted laterally, signifying that structural collapse could occur at any time," Manatee County Director of Public Safety Jake Saur warned, according to CBS News.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

"Due to a possible breach of mixed saltwater from the south reservoir at the Piney Point facility, I have declared a State of Emergency for Manatee County to ensure resources are allocated for necessary response & recovery," DeSantis tweeted on Saturday.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Officials say they are most concerned about the flooding the rupture could cause, adding that the water that would be discharged is only "slightly acidic," according to a statement issued by Manatee County on Twitter.

"The water meets water quality standards for marine waters with the exception of pH, total phosphorus, total nitrogen, and total ammonia nitrogen," the statement said. "It is slightly acidic, but not at a level that is expected to be a concern, nor is it expected to be toxic."

In a Sunday press conference, DeSantis said he and other officials went on an "aerial tour" of the site to scope it out. He also said crews are continuing to work to prevent "a real catastrophic flood situation."

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

"Response teams are all coordinating to ensure proper response and mitigation of risk," he said.

Workers have been desperately trying to figure out ways to stop the environmental catastrophe from happening.

Authorities worked around the clock on Saturday to pump out as much water as possible to minimize the effect of the potential flood. But this process is time-consuming and can take up to 12 days.

The governor, however, has ordered more pumps and cranes to be transported to the area.

Some workers tried to plug the hole with rocks and other materials on Friday afternoon but were unsuccessful.

George Kruse, a Manatee County commissioner, said he traveled to the plant on Saturday to assess the situation but had to leave the area quickly after realizing it was a safety hazard.

"We determined that it was no longer safe to be anywhere near Piney Point, so we all kind of raced off the stacks as fast as we could," Kruse said, according to the Guardian.

According to local media reports, residents in the area have been trying to sound the alarm on the old phosphate plans for years.

The problem goes back to 1989, where a 23,000-gallon leak of sulfuric acid from a holding tank by the pond forced the evacuation of hundreds of nearby residents.

DeSantis in his Sunday press conference stressed that water quality is not so big a point of concern.

"The water quality issues that are flowing through this for us is less than the risk of everyone's health and safety, particularly for those who live in the area," he said.

The governor also said 316 homes near the area have so far been evacuated, and safety notices have gone out to businesses as well. Residents in the evacuation area can call 311 and receive assistance on temporary relocation.

DeSantis also promised that HRK, the group responsible for maintaining the site, will be held accountable.

"This is not acceptable. This is not something we will allow to persist," he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider