Florida governor declares state of emergency amid fears of reservoir collapse

Acting Manatee County Administrator Dr. Scott Hopes speaks during a news conference Sunday

Manatee County officials said in an emergency alert sent to area residents late on Saturday.

"What we are looking at now is trying to prevent, and respond to if need be, a real catastrophic flood situation", DeSantis told a press conference after viewing the site by helicopter Sunday.

Residents within a 1-mile radius of the plant were ordered to evacuate, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Saturday in Manatee County as well as neighboring Hillsborough and Pinellas counties over the threat. Some families were placed in local hotels.

The Florida governor said the state has been pumping approximately 33 million gallons per day into Tampa Bay since Thursday to decrease stress on the leaking containment walls to avoid a breach and flood.

Acting Manatee County administrator Scott Hopes says with two pipes, 22,000 gallons per minute are being drawn and at that rate it will take 10-12 days to drain the water in a controlled fashion "so at least this material stays on Piney Point grounds".

How are local officials describing the situation?

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Manatee County Public Safety Department said that 316 households are within the full evacuation area. The Florida governor said a possible flood is a bigger concern than the quality of water.

Moreover, the water that is being discharged is "slightly acidic". DeSantis' declaration of a state of emergency allocates more pumps and cranes to the area.

Then a portion of the pond's containment wall shifted, meaning a collapse could occur at any time.

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Crews are now working to move water out of the reservoir as fast as possible, but it could take more than a week.

Officials saw recently, an increase of water that leaks out but Hopes said it appears to have plateaued. The water running out on its own is flowing to a creek that leads to Cockroach Bay, an aquatic preserve in the Tampa Bay north of the facility. Specifically, he said, looking at the water that has been eliminated and somewhat stability of the present breach, he thinks the team is much more comfortable now than they were previously.

But "we are not out of the critical area yet", he warned.

Hopes says that if the pond collapses, there is a risk it could destabilise the walls of other areas in the plant.

The Florida DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein said another pond has higher levels of metals.

"The radiologicals are still below surface water discharge standards. So, again this is not water we want to see leaving the site", he said.

The Center for Biological Diversity national conservation group called for the US Environmental Protection Agency to step in.

DeSantis vowed to hold HRK Holdings, the owners of the property, accountable for the failure. Some algal blooms can also harm people who come into contact with polluted waters or eat tainted fish.

The pond where the leak was discovered is at the old Piney Point phosphate mine, sitting in a stack of phosphogypsum, a waste product from manufacturing fertiliser that is radioactive.

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