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. That's what would happen within minutes if wall around the retention pond is fully breached, the acting county administrator said; as the Tampa Bay Times reports, efforts to fix the breach causing the leak have so far been unsuccessful.
Ron DeSantis said Sunday that state officials are hoping to prevent a "catastrophic event" as they pump water out of a reservoir near a decommissioned phosphate plant amid concerns it may collapse.
Officials in Florida ordered more than 300 homes to be evacuated and closed off a highway near the large reservoir in the Tampa Bay area north of Bradenton.
According to the state department of environmental protection, a breach was discovered on Friday in one wall of a 77-acre reservoir with a depth of 25 feet that contains millions of gallons of water containing phosphorus and nitrogen from the old phosphate mine.
The local drinking water supply is said to be unaffected and there is no threat to Lake Manatee, the area's primary water source.
"A portion of the containment wall at the leak site shifted laterally", said Manatee Director of Public Safety Jake Saur, "signifying that structural collapse could occur at any time".
Crews have been discharging water since the pond began leaking in late March. It has elevated levels of phosphorous and nitrogen and is acidic, but not expected to be toxic, the agency says.
"We're talking about the possibility of around 600 million gallons leaving the detention pool and flowing across the entire area in a matter of seconds and minutes", he added.
But "we are not out of the critical area yet", he warned.
Radioactive wastewater leak prompts evacuation in Florida
The governor said officials are preparing for a full breach, but hope it doesn't happen.
Meanwhile, Noah Valenstein, the Florida DEP Secretary said, another pond was found to have higher levels of metals.
He specified the radiological is still lower than the surface water discharge standards.
However, the Environmental Protection Agency said, excessive nitrogen in the wastewater leads to faster growth of algae, resulting in fish kills.
Environmental groups urged the United States federal government to step in. Instead, "we will be depleting the holding ponds of their water, and then we will be moving forward to a permanent solution into the future", he said.
ABC News could not immediately reach a representative for HRK Holdings for comment.
The ponds are said to have been sitting in stacks of phosphogypsum, a solid radioactive byproduct from manufacturing fertilizer, as explained in Daily Kos.
The large reservoir at the Piney Point plant is leaking most likely due to a tear in the pond's liner.
"We hope the contamination is not as bad as we fear", said Justin Bloom of the group, Suncoast Waterkeeper.