Florida governor declares state of emergency amid fears of reservoir collapse

Florida Governor Ron De Santis conducting a helicopter tour of the area affected by a leaking reservoir that threatens to spill millions of gallons of contaminated wastewater

Manatee County officials said earlier Sunday that the latest models showed that a breach at the old phosphate plant reservoir had the potential to gush out 340 million gallons of water in a matter of minutes, risking a 6-meter-high (about 20-foot) wall of water.

After a major leak at a large pond at the old Piney Point phosphate mine threatened to burst a facility that stores water contaminated with hazardous materials, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis proclaimed a state of emergency on Saturday.

Hundreds of homes and part of a county jail have been evacuated as authorities work to drain the leaking pond.

Using two pipes, 22,000 gallons per minute are being drawn "into a substantial drainage ditch which has conduits underneath two railroad tracks and then empties in a pipe to the seawall", said Scott Hopes, Manatee County administrator.

Florida officials are urging residents in the surrounding areas of a wastewater storage pond to heed evacuation orders ahead of a potential overflow of polluted water.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says the water in the pond is primarily salt water mixed with wastewater and storm water.

It has elevated levels of phosphorous and nitrogen and is acidic, but is not radioactive, reports said, despite it containing small amounts of naturally occurring radium and uranium.

Authorities are working to plug the hole and pumping water to ease the pressure in the pond, but have warned that dirty water could spill into the community. The Florida governor declared a state of emergency on Saturday for Manatee County, where the plant is located.

Who is Jordan's ex-crown prince Hamzah, accused of destabilizing kingdom?
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A portion of the reservoir's retaining wall shifted laterally, which means total structural collapse is possible, Manatee County public safety officials said.

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

Officials saw recently, an increase of water that leaks out but Hopes said it appears to have plateaued.

"I have also deployed the National Guard and they are in the process of dropping off additional pumps via aircraft on top of the berms, to help decrease the water levels in the Piney Point reservoir at an even faster pace".

Phosphogypsum is a regulated, radioactive substance that is the byproduct of fertilizer manufacturing, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The owner, HRK Holdings, did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday. 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. Some algal blooms can also harm people who come into contact with polluted waters or eat tainted fish.

"For more than 50 years, this Central Florida mining operation has caused numerous human health and environmental disasters and incidents", Fried wrote.

Hopes said the plan is not to fix the damaged reservoir liner.

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