Hundreds of Florida homes evacuated due to phosphate plant breach

Gov. Ron De Santis inspects a failing phosphogypsum storage site near Tampa Bay

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency on Saturday after a significant leak at a large pond of wastewater threatened to flood roads and burst a system that stores polluted waters.

Evacuations have been ordered next to a wastewater holding reservoir near Tampa, Florida, because of an "imminent" uncontrolled release of water, officials said, according to reports.

"So what we're looking at now, is trying to prevent and respond to, if need be, a real catastrophic flood situation", DeSantis stated. In a news conference Sunday, DeSantis said state and federal emergency teams are on stand-by at the Piney Point Reservoir.

A local jail 1.6 kilometres away from the 31-hectare pond is not being evacuated, but officials are moving people and staff to the second storey and putting sandbags on the ground floor.

The water being discharged from Piney Point is a mix of sea water from the Port Manatee dredge project, process water and storm water, officials said.

Florida's Department of Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Noah Valenstein told the Tampa Bay Times the potential environmental disaster's primary threat is to human health.

Aerial images aired on local television showed water pouring from leaks in the walls of the retention pond. On Friday, a significant leak that was detected escalated the response and prompted the first evacuations and a declaration of a state of emergency on Saturday.

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Controlled discharges from the reservoir of about 30 million gallons per day began on Tuesday, DeSantis said.

Others have been working to chart the path to control how the water flows from the pond into the Tampa Bay.

"What if we should have a full breach?" We saw ducks yesterday, there are snooks swimming in there.

Manatee County, the state and HRK Holdings, who now owns the property, have worked for years in finding a solution.

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. State authorities say the water in the breached pond is not radioactive.

"This is my community, too", Barath said.

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

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