Science Brief: Florida Declares State of Emergency over Toxic Reservoir Leak

Photo by Mikael Seegen from Unsplash

By Jessie Mitnick, age 13

Over Easter weekend, residents of Manatee, Florida, were evacuated from their homes due to leaks from a nearby reservoir. The reservoir contained water contaminated with phosphogypsuma toxic fertilizer waste productfrom a former phosphate mine nearby. 

The leak caused an “imminent hazard” that posed “an immediate and substantial danger to human health, safety, welfare and the environment,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis, who declared a state of emergency over the situation. According to the Manatee County Public Safety Department, there are 316 households within the evacuation area. While local residents were required to evacuate, the Manatee County Jail was not. In a jail with over 1,000 inmates, only 30% were safely evacuated. Originally, they had planned to evacuate about 35% but lowered the number “based on risk factors involving inmate classification.” 

Phosphogypsum contains quantities of uranium and radium, which are radioactive materials. There are multiple leaks, and, according to Jake Saur, the Manatee director of public safety, a structural collapse is looming.

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