Nearly 500 million gallons of toxic water could swamp a west Florida county, and authorities said Saturday the collapse of a flimsy wall holding it back was "imminent".
Engineers said the structure collapse could happen any time, which would flood the area - and Tampa Bay itself - with water that contains phosphorus and nitrogen from the phosphate plant. Authorities expanded the evacuation area later on Saturday to include more homes, but said they were not planning to open shelters.
On Friday, crews worked overnight in an attempt to fix the leak, but those attempts were unsuccessful, Sauer said.
Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes said it could take between 10 to 12 days for the situation to stabilize, according to ABC affiliate WJXX.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared the state of emergency on Saturday.
"We are talking about the potential of about 600 million gallons (2.3 billion liters) within a matter of seconds and minutes leaving that retention pool and going around the surrounding area", Hopes said. Phosphogypsum is a regulated, radioactive substance that is the byproduct of fertilizer manufacturing, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
"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.
PHOTO: Wastewater is suspected to be leaking at the old Piney Point phosphate plant at the water management at HRK Holdings' property, in Palmetto, Fla., March 30, 2021.
The 480 million gallons of polluted water sit atop giant piles of mining waste known as gypsum stacks, according to the Bradenton Herald.