Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency on Saturday after a significant leak at a large pond of wastewater threatened to flood roads and burst a system that stores polluted waters.
Amid the heightened threat, Manatee County Public Safety Department expanded an evacuation order to hundreds of homes in the surrounding area.
The water is also contaminated with metals like cadmium.
"What we're looking at now is trying to prevent and respond to, if need be, a real catastrophic flood situation", DeSantis said.
According to a Sunday report from CNN, such a leak could potentially "cause a collapse of phosphogypsum stacks, waste that is created during fertilizer production and phosphate rock mining". It also contains small amounts of naturally occurring radium and uranium, and the stacks can release large concentrations of radon gas as well. Florida's National Guard is in the process of dropping off pumps to redirect the water into surrounding waterways.
"According to on-site engineers, a controlled release was necessary to prevent a catastrophic failure", the governor said.
For all of these reasons, Manatee County made finding a solution to drain the toxic water their number one priority in 2021. "It is slightly acidic, but not at a level that is expected to be a concern, nor is it expected to be toxic".
The concerns for the quality of the water being discharged are now "less than the risk of everyone's health and safety" due to the potential for flooding, DeSantis said Sunday.
"The immediate evacuation of residents, disruption of families during Easter weekend, and potential environmental catastrophe requires the attention and action of Florida's statewide elected leadership", Fried said.
Manatee County acting County Administrator Dr. Scott Hopes said, "If we should have a full breach, within minutes we're down to about 340 million gallons that could breach in totality in a period of minutes, and the models for less than an hour are as high of a 20-foot wall of water". The issue has been "ongoing for decades", he added.
Hopes says that if the pond collapses, there is a risk it could destabilise the walls of other areas in the plant.
"There have been numerous, well-documented failures - which continue today - of the property's reservoir liner, including leaks, poor welds, holes, cracks, and weaknesses that existed prior to purchase by the current owner, HRK Holdings, and exacerbated since", she writes.
"It's not acceptable", DeSantis said.
In a statement, the group added: "The current crisis can be traced back to the absurd 2006 decision to allow dredged material from Port Manatee to be placed into one of the gyp stacks at Piney Point, something the stack was never designed for and should have never been allowed".
"This is my community, too", Barath said.
ABC News could not immediately reach a representative for HRK Holdings for comment.