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State Of Emergency, Evacuations In Florida County Over Wastewater Pond Leak

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gestures as he stands with state and local officials during a news conference Sunday at the Manatee County Emergency Management office in Palmetto, Fla.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gestures as he stands with state and local officials during a news conference Sunday at the Manatee County Emergency Management office in Palmetto, Fla.

Manatee County in Florida was under a state of emergency over the weekend and more than 300 homes were ordered evacuated because of 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 it 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 that the water being dumped wasn't radioactive and that it's primarily salt water "mixed with legacy process water and stormwater runoff."

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said 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 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 noted, the ponds "sit in stacks of phosphogypsum, a solid radioactive byproduct from manufacturing fertilizer."

Officials are working to prevent a collapse but Scott Hopes, Manatee's acting county administrator, said 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."

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