Aerial Footage Shows Toxic Wastewater Leak in Florida's Manatee County

Florida declares state of emergency over toxic wastewater leak

According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, authorities have already released millions of gallons of wastewater into the Tampa Bay, raising concerns the phosphate-rich discharge could fuel a "red tide", or algal bloom, that poses a grave threat to marine life and could deter tourist activity.

Emergency workers in Florida are trying to prevent the collapse of a large wastewater pond while evacuating the area to avoid a "catastrophic flood", the state's governor said.

The Manatee County Public Safety Department said in an alert there is an "imminent threat" of uncontrolled release of wastewater from the former Piney Point phosphate processing plant in Palmetto.

"All residents impacted should heed local evacuation orders", he wrote.

It has elevated levels of phosphorous and nitrogen and is acidic, but not expected to be toxic, the agency said.

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

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency on Saturday. "We aren't expecting more than a foot of water on jail property, in the worst case scenario", Warren said.

"Teams on the ground are laser-focused on addressing this issue, and I have directed Secretary Valenstein to work with Manatee County and utilize all available resources to form a permanent solution to this longstanding issue", said Desantis.

According to Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes, with new resources of the state, crews will be nearly doubling the amount of water being released from the pond and taken to Port Manatee.

But he also warned that "we are not out of the critical area yet".

Hopes said he could not rule out that a full breach could also destabilise the walls of the other ponds at the Piney Point site.

Using two pipes, waste water is being drawn "into a substantial drainage ditch which has conduits underneath two railroad tracks and then empties in a pipe to the seawall", said Hopes. Therefore, again, the official said, this is not water they want to see leaving the site. Depending on the environmental factors surrounding the ponds such as fertilizer runoff and rainfall, among others, this nutrient's levels can vary.

The owner, HRK Holdings, did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

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".

"The pond is basically salt water". 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.