Amid wastewater overflow threat, Florida officials urge residents to heed evacuation orders

Florida faces imminent collapse of giant phosphate mine pond

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.

The Governor declared a state of emergency for Manatee County Saturday morning in response to the crisis.

"While our foremost concern is ensuring the safety of the community, our administration is dedicated for full enforcement of any damages to our state's resources and holding the company, HRK, accountable for this event", DeSantis said during a news conference.

"What we're looking at now is trying to prevent and respond to, if need be, a real catastrophic flood situation", DeSantis said.

On Sunday, Mr DeSantis said emergency workers - assisted by the Florida National Guard - were pumping water out of the pond at a rate of 33 million gallons a day. Authorities closed off portions of the U.S. Highway 41 and ordered evacuations of 316 homes.

Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes said the models show the area could be covered with between 30 centimeters (1 foot) to 1.5 meters (1.5 feet) of water, and the second floor is 10 feet above ground.

A significant leak at a large pond of wastewater threatened to flood roads and burst a system that stores polluted waters.

An Instagram user posted
An Instagram user posted

Officials said the 77-acre (31-hectare) reservoir holds millions of gallons of water containing phosphorus and nitrogen from an old phosphate plant.

"Evacuate area NOW. Collapse of Piney Point stack imminent!" "So, again this is not water we want to see leaving the site", DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein said.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) previously authorized the dumping of hundreds of millions of gallons of toxic water into the Gulf of Mexico.

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

"We are closely monitoring the ongoing situation and are in close communication with Governor DeSantis' office, as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection", she said in an email.

Phosphogypsum is a byproduct of fertilizer from phosphate rock, and is considered to be weakly radioactive.

Fried details in her letter how previously-known poor maintenance by current and former phosphate mine owners have created a unsafe situation for local residents, communities and even state-managed lands and waters.



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