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Parts of Florida county evacuated amid fears of wastewater reservoir collapse

Parts of a Florida county were evacuated Saturday evening amid fears that a wastewater reservoir containing radioactive waste would collapse.

Officials with the Manatee County Public Safety Department issued evacuation orders for roughly 316 households near Piney Point, according to NBC affiliate WFLA. Officials warned that the possibility was “growing for a large-scale breach” of a phosphogypsum stack.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisFormer Fla. Gov calls for an investigation into the state's 'outsized role' in the Jan. 6 riot The Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare here to stay Florida pardons residents fined or arrested for mask violations MORE (R) issued a state of emergency for the county as well as two other counties amid the threat. The state’s website warned of a “possible breach of mixed saltwater from the south reservoir at the Piney Point facility.”

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According to the state, Florida first received a report on March 26 that water was bypassing the wastewater management system at the facility, which is a former phosphate plant. HRK Holdings, which owns the site, reported the leak.

CBS affiliate WTSP reported that there was a “significant leak” at the bottom of the reserve on top of several small breaches that were already found. The news outlet noted that overnight efforts to fix the leak and to prevent a bigger flood of wastewater were unsuccessful.

According to a timeline of events published by WTSP, the Manatee County Public Safety Department ordered evacuations within a mile north and half a mile south of the phosphogypsum stacks. By Saturday evening, the evacuations were expanded half a mile west and one mile southwest.

The Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement that phosphogypsum is radioactive waste from processing phosphate ore into phobic acid, which is used in fertilizer.

The group said that more than 1 billion tons of radioactive phosphogypsum waste has been stored in 25 stacks across the state of Florida.