Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency on Saturday, after a large leak in a large pond severely threatened flooding and disrupted the sewage storage system.
Florida officials ordered the evacuation of more than 300 homes and closed the highway near a large reservoir in the Tampa Bay area north of Bradenton on Saturday.
Residents living near the Piney Point Reservoir received an alert via text message that they would collapse immediately because the collapse was imminent. Authorities expanded the evacuation area and increased the number of houses late Saturday, but said they did not plan to open shelters.
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The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said a crack was found in the wall of a 77-acre (33-hectare) pond on Friday. The pond is 25 feet (8 meters) deep and can hold millions of gallons of phosphorus and nitrogen. From an old phosphate factory.
Officials brought rocks and materials to plug the hole in the pond from Friday night to Saturday, but the attempt was unsuccessful.
Manatee County Chief Executive Scott Hopes said at a press conference on Saturday that the most pressing concern is that water might flood the area, which he said is agriculture and the population density is low.
Hopps said: “We are talking about the potential of about 600 million gallons (2.3 billion liters) that leave the retention pond and walk around the surrounding area in seconds and minutes.”
Workers have pumped thousands of gallons of water every minute at the site to prevent lower production if the pond ruptures. It takes 10 to 12 days to pump the entire pond. Others have been trying to map paths to control how water flows from the pond to Tampa Bay.
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DeSantis declared a state of emergency and distributed more pumps and cranes to the area. Owner HRK Holdings did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.
The pond where the leak was found is located in the ancient Piney Point phosphate mine, in a pile of phosphogypsum, a waste product from the production of radioactive fertilizers. It contains a small amount of naturally occurring radium and uranium, and the chimney also releases a high concentration of gas.
Hopps said that if the pond collapsed, it could damage the stability of the walls in other areas of the factory.
He said: “The pond is basically salt water. Yesterday we saw ducks and there was snooker swimming there. It was maintained by wildlife. The other two swimming pools are not like this.” He added that the wastewater in the other ponds Need to be processed. Reduce the content of ammonium salts and other substances.
The executive order declaring the state of emergency stated that 480 million gallons (1.8 billion liters) of seawater were mixed with process water and dike materials from the old fertilizer factory in the damaged structure.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (Nikki Fried) urged the governor to convene an emergency meeting of the state cabinet to discuss a plan in a letter, adding that the property has had similar leaks in the past.
Fried said: “The emergency evacuation of residents, the breakdown of families during the Easter weekend, and the potential environmental disaster all require the attention and action of elected leaders across the state of Florida.”
In 2016, after a huge sinkhole was opened in the pond of the phosphogypsum pile, more than 200 million gallons of contaminated wastewater from another fertilizer plant in central Florida leaked into the state’s main aquifer.
In the United States, there are at least 70 gypsum piles, while in Florida there are about 27, mainly in the Midwestern region of Florida. The waste water stored in the gypsum pile cannot be seen from the ground because the pile surrounding the structure can be as high as 500 feet (150 meters).