Authorities in Manatee County in the U.S. state of Florida warned residents that if a water tank at the former Piney Point phosphate plant were to rupture, a six-meter-high wave of process water could hit nearby areas.
State Governor Ron Desantis declared a state of emergency in Manatee County on Saturday because of the leaking tank. Authorities warned that 480 million gallons of mixed salt water (about 18,000 cubic meters) could overflow onto the surrounding area within minutes. The water pouring out of the reservoir вЂњmeets most seawater quality standardsвЂќ and is вЂњnot radioactive,вЂќ but it has elevated acidity levels, according to the county's emergency management center.
An evacuation has been declared in the Piney Point area because of the threat of flooding to about 316 homes.
вЂњIf there is a full breach, within minutes вЂ” we have now reduced the volume in the reservoir to 340 million gallons (1.2 million cubic meters) вЂ” it could all spill out completely within minutes, ... a wave of water 20 feet high (6 meters),вЂќ County Administrator Scott Hopes said during a joint press conference with the governor.
Hopes urged all those in the evacuation zone to follow the authorities' advice and leave their homes.
At the same time, Hopes noted that Manatee County jail inmates in the evacuation zone have been moved to the second floor of the building, where water is not expected to reach.
Florida's governor said during the conference that an average of about 33 million gallons of water a day could be pumped out, and the state National Guard must deliver 20 more additional pumps.