On Saturday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency after a leak was discovered in an old phosphate plant pond in the Tampa Bay area, which could cause a dangerous acidic flood.
Residents living near the abandoned Piney Point phosphate mine, north of Bradenton and near Tampa, have been forced to leave their homes. The people of a half-mile radius around the reservoir got a text message alert on Saturday, warning them that the reservoir was "imminently collapsing," according to the Guardian.
The leak was found on Friday, according to state officials. It was discovered in one of the 77-acre pond's walls, which contains around 600 million gallons of phosphorus, nitrogen, and small quantities of radium and uranium-containing water.
Significant amounts of radon gas may also be released from the stacks.
According to CBS News, Manatee County Director of Public Safety Jake Saur warned that "a portion of the containment wall at the leak site moved laterally, signaling that structural failure could occur at any moment."
On Saturday, DeSantis tweeted, "Due to a potential leak of mixed saltwater from the south reservoir at the Piney Point facility, I have declared the State of Emergency for Manatee County to ensure resources are allocated for appropriate response and recovery."
According to a statement released by Manatee County on Twitter, officials are most worried about the flooding that the rupture might cause, adding that the water that will be discharged is only "slightly acidic."
"With the exception of pH, total phosphorus, total nitrogen, and total ammonia nitrogen, the water meets water quality requirements for marine waters," the statement said. "It's mildly acidic, but not to the point that it's a problem, and it's not supposed to be harmful."
DeSantis said he and other officials took an "aerial tour" of the site on Sunday to assess the situation. He also reported that teams are still working to avoid "a real disastrous flood situation."
"All response teams are working together to ensure adequate response and risk reduction," he said.
The staff has been frantically trying to come up with solutions to avoid environmental disasters.
On Saturday, authorities worked around the clock to pump out as much water as possible in order to reduce the impact of the imminent flood. However, this procedure is lengthy and can take up to 12 days.
The governor, on the other hand, has ordered the delivery of more pumps and cranes to the city.
On Friday afternoon, several employees attempted but failed to plug the hole with rocks and other materials.
A Manatee County commissioner, George Kruse, said he went to the plant to evaluate the situation on Saturday but had to leave quickly after realizing it was a safety threat.
According to the Guardian, "we decided that it was no longer safe to be anywhere near Piney Point, so we all sort of ran off the stacks as soon as we could."
Residents in the region, according to local media sources, have been trying to raise awareness about the old phosphate plans for years.
The issue dates back to 1989 when a 23,000-gallon sulfuric acid spill from a storage tank near the pond forced hundreds of local residents to flee.
In his Sunday press conference, DeSantis said that water quality is not a major concern.
"The risk to everyone's health and safety, especially for those who live in the region, is less than the water quality issues that are flowing through this for us," he said.
316 homes in the area have been evacuated, according to the governor, and businesses have also received safety notices. Residents in the evacuation zone should call 311 for temporary relocation assistance.
HRK, the company in charge of managing the platform, will also be kept accountable, according to DeSantis.
"It is unacceptably bad. This is something we will not allow to continue "he said