On March 26, wastewater started to gush out of a pond at the Piney Point facility in Manatee County, around 64 kilometers (40 miles) south of Tampa along Florida's Gulf Coast, according to the Florida Governor's office. The pond at the Piney Point phosphate plant in central Florida could potentially release 340 million gallons (1.3 billion liters) of toxic water within minutes, threatening nearby homes and causing a potential environmental crisis in the area.
The development comes after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned Sunday of a "catastrophic flood situation" if the body of water at Piney Point, a former phosphate mine, collapses.
It could take between 10 to 12 days for the situation to stabilize, Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes said Saturday.
The Florida governor said the state has been pumping approximately 33 million gallons per day into Tampa Bay since Thursday to decrease stress on the leaking containment walls to avoid a breach and flood.More news: India's Maharashtra sets curfew as cases spike
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.
After the threat is mitigated, the wall will not be repaired, and all of the holding ponds on the property will be drained of water and likely filled, Hopes said during the press conference on Sunday. More than 300 homes have been evacuated, he added. That discovery escalated the response and prompted the first evacuations and a declaration of a state of emergency on Saturday.
A significant leak at a large pond of wastewater threatened to flood roads and burst a system that stores polluted waters.
"Looking at the water that has been removed and the somewhat stability of the current breach, I think the team is much more comfortable today than we were yesterday", he said.More news: Australia investigates possible link of blood clot case to AstraZeneca vaccine
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. We saw ducks yesterday, there are snooks swimming in there. "The water meets water quality standards for marine waters with the exception primarily of the phosphorus and the nitrogen", DeSantis said.
Phosphogypsum, the radioactive waste seeping from the site, is formed as a by-produce from fertilizer production, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. An engineer even advised against using the reservoir as a backstop at peak levels because of a "relatively high potential for liner failure and potential release of process water into the gypsum dikes or pond floor".
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.
Justin Bloom, founder of the Sarasota-based nonprofit group Suncoast Waterkeeper, said in a statement Sunday that "we hope the contamination is not as bad as we fear, but are preparing for significant damage to Tampa Bay and the communities that rely on this precious resource".More news: Statement from Warden Bob Crate on provincial shutdown — RELEASE