Tampa Bay, Fla. — Governor Ron DeSantis has declared a State of Emergency for Manatee County.
This comes less than one day after Manatee leaders issued a local state of emergency over a looming environmental disaster at the Piney Point phosphate plant.
Late last month, the facility announced a leak had been discovered in a 77-acre process water pond that was releasing wastewater into Piney Point Creek which leads into Tampa Bay.
In a report by the Bradenton Herald, public safety officials have announced new evacuations around the phosphate mine, declaring the collapse of a gypsum stack “imminent.”
Officials say the stack collapsed further despite overnight efforts from state and local crews. The Florida Highway Patrol closed a portion of US 41 over concerns over wastewater overflow.
As of Friday night, Acting Manatee County administrator Scott Hopes told reporters 22,000 gallons of water were being dumped into the Gulf of Mexico --per minute.
As of Saturday morning, the Red Cross had been called in to assist, and people within a half a mile radius of the site were asked to evacuate.
WFLA8 in Tampa reports an environmental disaster is looming if local water supplies are contaminated.
In an interview with Axios, USF geoscience professor Matthew Pasek believes the leak has likely already caused irreversible environmental damage.
“This occurred despite overnight efforts from state and local crews to reinforce the breached areas. Our first concern is to protect the people who live and do business in the area,” said Manatee County Board of Commissioners Chair Vanessa Baugh. “People within a half-mile radius received an emergency notification to evacuate at 11:01 a.m. The public must heed that notice to avoid harm.”
This is a developing story. Action News Jax will update you on air and online as information becomes available.