Manatee County in Florida was under a state of emergency over the weekend and more than 300 homes were ordered evacuated over a leak at a wastewater reservoir.
A significant leak was discovered Friday at the wastewater pond located at Piney Point, a former phosphate plant.
Officials had warned about the potential for the reservoir’s collapse, flooding nearby areas.
Manatee’s Public Safety Department alerted residents Friday and Saturday, urging them to leave immediately.
Authorities are now working to drain water from the reservoir and empty into the bay at Port Manatee to lessen the risks of a collapse.
Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency over the county Saturday. He said in a press conference Sunday the water being dumped wasn’t radioactive, saying it’s primarily salt water “mixed with legacy process water and stormwater runoff.”
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says the water “meets water quality standards for marine waters with the exception of pH, total phosphorus, total nitrogen and total ammonia nitrogen. It is slightly acidic, but not at a level that is expected to be a concern.”
DeSantis said that officials are working to bring in additional pumps to drain the reservoir and are pumping out 33 million gallons per day.
As The Associated Press notes, the ponds “sit in stacks of phosphogypsum, a solid radioactive byproduct from manufacturing fertilizer.”
Officials are working to prevent a collapse but according to Scott Hopes, Manatee’s acting county administrator, attempts to plug the leak with rocks and other earth materials have failed.
The issue with the plant isn’t new. According to Hopes, “As you know, this issue has been ongoing for a couple of decades.”