‘Imminent’ Collapse of Toxic Wastewater Pond Prompts State of Emergency in Florida’s Manatee County

Officials in Florida’s Manatee County warned Saturday morning, April 3, of the “imminent” collapse of a retention pond holding hundreds of millions gallons of wastewater contaminated with radioactive material, and ordered emergency evacuations.

Official alerts from Manatee County Public Safety at 11 am on Saturday said a significant leak had compromised the stability of a reservoir pond sitting atop a phosphogypsum stack (often shortened to “gypsum stack”) near Piney Point. Phosphogypsum is a regulated, radioactive substance that is the byproduct of fertilizer manufacturing, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). There are 27 gypsum stacks across Florida, WFLA reported.

A leak in the retention pond had been reported the previous week, County Administrator Scott Hopes said at a press briefing Friday evening. Hoping to offset the risk of collapse, officials were releasing 22,000 gallons of water per minute into Port Manatee. County Commissioner Misty Servia posted this footage on Friday shows the contaminated water being discharged into the port.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a State of Emergency for Manatee County on Saturday afternoon, and Florida Highway Patrol shut down the nearby US Highway 41.

The Bradenton Herald reported that the pond was holding 480 million gallons of wastewater. Credit: Misty Servia via Storyful