Florida expands evacuation zone amid state of emergency in Manatee County over fears of ‘imminent breach’ of wastewater reservoir

Manatee County officials have expanded a mandatory evacuation area around a leaking wastewater pond at an old Piney Point phosphate mine, as governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency amid fears of an “imminent” collapse.

Over 300 households received an emergency evacuation alert on Saturday afternoon, after the initial danger zone that included just a few dozen houses was expanded half-mile west and one mile southwest, according to the Manatee County Public Safety Department.

The artificial pond at the Piney Point industrial site, abandoned since 2001, contains an estimated 800 million gallons of sea- and rainwater mixed with waste products from the manufacture of phosphate fertilizer.

Authorities fear that millions of gallons of water could rush out and flood the immediate area within a matter of seconds, according to Manatee county administrator Scott Hopes.

We are talking about the potential of about 600m gallons within a matter of seconds and minutes leaving that retention pool and going around the surrounding area.

In the meantime, addressing concerns of alleged “radioactive waste” and other “toxic chemicals”, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection claimed that the wastewater is “slightly acidic, but not at a level that is expected to be a concern, nor is it expected to be toxic.”

The water meets water quality standards for marine waters with the exception of pH, total phosphorus, total nitrogen and total ammonia nitrogen.

The leak was first discovered on Thursday, and on Friday authorities issued the first evacuation orders, after their attempts to contain the growing breach and drain some of the water into nearby Tampa Bay failed to alleviate the threat of an uncontrolled collapse.

On Saturday afternoon, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for Manatee County, “to ensure resources are allocated for necessary response and recovery.”

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