Hundreds of Florida homes evacuated due to phosphate plant breach

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April 3 (UPI) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in Manatee County and officials ordered a complete evacuation of the Piney Point reservoir area Saturday due to fears a decommissioned phosphate plant could collapse.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that work crews attempted to shore up a breach in a wall at the former Piney Point phosphate plant Saturday morning.

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The 480-million wastewater reservoir has been leaking for days, but by 10:30 a.m. engineers “deemed the situation to be escalating,” Manatee County Public Safety Director Jacob Saur told the newspaper.

“We’re talking about the potential of about [480] million gallons, within a matter of seconds and minutes, leaving that retention pool and going around the surrounding area,” Scott Hopes, the Manatee County Administrator, said Saturday.

Engineers said the structure collapse could happen any time, which would flood the area — and Tampa Bay itself — with water that contains phosphorus and nitrogen from the phosphate plant.

“Due to a possible breach of mixed saltwater from the south reservoir at the Piney Point facility, I have declared a State of Emergency for Manatee County to ensure resources are allocated for necessary response & recovery,” DeSantis wrote on Twitter.

The initial evacuation zone included between 15 and 20 houses, and officials say all of them have been evacuated.

By 6 p.m. EDT county officials expanded the evacuation zone to include an area with about 316 homes.

Parts of US-41 have also been closed due to the breach.

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