Leak of radioactive wastewater plant in Florida ‘imminent’: officials

A wastewater holding reservoir near Tampa, Florida, is on the verge of an “imminent” collapse that threatens to leak hundreds of millions of gallons of acidic, radioactive water to surrounding neighborhoods, according to reports.

A state of emergency has been declared and an evacuation order has been issued for the area a half-mile radius south and a mile north of the abandoned Piney Point plant, ABC affiliated WFLA in Tampa reported. A portion of US 41 and surrounding roads near the plant have also been shut down.

“Evacuate area NOW. Collapse of Piney Point Stack Imminent!” Manatee County Public Safety said in an alert issued Saturday afternoon, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

The reservoir holds two stacks of phosphogypsum, or radioactive waste formed as a byproduct of fertilizer made from phosphate rock, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

 A view of a water management at HRK Holdings property on March 30, 2021, in Palmetto, Florida.
A view of a water management plant at the HRK Holdings property on March 30, 2021, in Palmetto, Florida.
Tampa Bay Times/ZUMA

Officials announced on Thursday that there was a linear tear at the site, which closed in 2001 and is owned by HRK Holdings.

Attempts to plug the breach on Friday night with dirt and stone failed, Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes said during a Saturday afternoon briefing, weather.com reported.

Manatee County Administrator Dr. Scott Hopes speaks during a news conference regarding a possible leak near the old Piney Point phosphate plant site in Palmetto on April 2, 2021.
Manatee County Administrator Dr. Scott Hopes speaks during a news conference regarding a possible leak near the old Piney Point phosphate plant site in Palmetto on April 2, 2021.
Tampa Bay Times/ZUMA

He said a collapse could lead to “600 million gallons in a matter of seconds or minutes leaving the retention pool and going over the surrounding areas.”

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