Florida governor urgently working to prevent 'catastrophic flood' in Tampa area

Map locates the Piney Point facility pond that is leaking contaminated water

The Florida governor declared a state of emergency on Saturday for Manatee County, where the plant is located. Throughout the day the volume had decreased to less than 300 million.

Officials are trying to prevent "a real catastrophic flood situation" by ensuring the quality of the stack system as quickly as possible, DeSantis told reporters during a press conference Sunday.

The entire Piney Point reservoir site, about 20 miles south of Tampa, and surrounding areas has been evacuated. Some families were evacuated in local hotels.

How are local officials describing the situation?

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At that rate, he said, it will take 10-12 days to drain the water in a controlled fashion "so at least this material stays on Piney Point grounds".

County officials say well water remains unaffected and there is no threat to Lake Manatee, the area's primary source of drinking water. It has elevated levels of phosphorous and nitrogen and is acidic, but not expected to be toxic, the agency says. On Friday, a significant leak was detected.

A portion of the reservoir's retaining wall shifted laterally, which means total structural collapse is possible, Manatee County public safety officials said.

Hopes, the county administrator, said Sunday that with new state resources, crews will be almost doubling the amount of water being pumped out of the pond and taken to Port Manatee.

To date, roughly 22,000 gallons of water are being pumped out of the pond every minute, and according to Hopes, he is expecting the danger of collapse to decline by Tuesday. Specifically, he said, looking at the water that has been eliminated and somewhat stability of the present breach, he thinks the team is much more comfortable now than they were previously. "We are not out of the critical area yet".

Radioactive wastewater leak prompts evacuation in Florida

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

"We're not talking about anything with radiation or high levels of heavy metals", he said.

"The radiologicals are still below surface water discharge standards", he said. Therefore, again, the official said, this is not water they want to see leaving the site.

However, the Environmental Protection Agency said, excessive nitrogen in the wastewater leads to faster growth of algae, resulting in fish kills.

"This is not acceptable and it's not something we will allow to persist", he said, adding that he has ordered the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation to find a permanent fix at the site.

The owner, HRK Holdings, did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

In 2016, more than 200 million gallons of contaminated waste water from another fertiliser plant in central Florida leaked into one of the state's main aquifers after a massive sinkhole opened up in a pond of a phosphogypsum stack.

"We're hoping that we can just continue to get water out in an efficient way to prevent a catastrophic event", the governor said.

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