Florida governor declares state of emergency amid fears of reservoir collapse

Piney Point Reservoir

Florida reservoir in danger of collapse Credit Reuters

Throughout the day the volume had decreased to less than 300 million.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency because of the threat to people living near the Piney Point Reservoir, about 40 miles south of Tampa.

Authorities expanded the evacuation area later on Saturday to include more homes, but said they were not planning to open shelters.

"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 Administrator Scott Hopes said it could take between 10 to 12 days for the situation to stabilize, according to ABC affiliate WJXX.

Officials had warned about the potential for the reservoir's collapse, flooding nearby areas.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says the water in the collapsing pond is primarily saltwater mixed with wastewater and stormwater.

Crews have been discharging water since the pond began leaking in late March. On Friday, a significant leak was detected.

Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency over the county Saturday.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
Florida Governor Ron De Santis warns of flood threat Credit Chris O'Meara AP

Hopes said he hoped the emergency would inspire a permanent fix for phosphate stacks following decades of neglect.

"We're hoping that we can just continue to get water out in an efficient way to prevent a catastrophic event", the governor said. The polluted water could also end up in Tampa Bay.

"The water quality issues that are flowing from this for us is less than the risk of everyone's health and safety, particularly folks who may live in the area".

Hopes explained he could not rule out that an entire breach could disrupt the walls of other ponds located at the Piney Point site.

Meanwhile, Noah Valenstein, the Florida DEP Secretary said, another pond was found to have higher levels of metals.

Moreover, the water that is being discharged is "slightly acidic". "So, again this is not water we want to see leaving the site", he said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a coordinator on the scene to work with emergency management and provide support as necessary, said EPA spokeswoman Brandi Jenkins. Depending on the environmental factors surrounding the ponds such as fertilizer runoff and rainfall, among others, this nutrient's levels can vary.

The leaking pond sits in a stack of phosphogypsum, a waste product from manufacturing fertiliser, and contains "small amounts of naturally occurring radium and uranium". According to state authorities, the water in the breached pond is non-radioactive. He said the county's original plan - moving all the inmates to the second floor - would be too much of a security risk, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

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