Florida governor declares state of emergency amid leaking wastewater reservoir

Authorities are scrambling to prevent the former phosphate plant from collapsing in order to avert a potential environmental disaster.
2:35 | 04/04/21

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Transcript for Florida governor declares state of emergency amid leaking wastewater reservoir
and a developing situation in manatee county, Florida. The governor declaring a state of emergency. Ordering evacuations. Authorities scrambling to avert a disaster in a leaking reservoir. A plant potentially releasing a 20-foot wall of water into the community. The National Guard is on the - scene. Helicopters lowering pumps, trying to reduce the water levels. Families in more than 300 homes told to leave immediately. Stephanie Ramos leads us off tonight from palmetto, Florida. Reporter: Tonight, a race against time along Florida's gulf coast. A leak at an old waste water reservoir, threatening an environmental disaster in palmetto, Florida, about 40 miles south of Tampa. Onsite engineers deemed the site too dangerous of imminent collapse. Reporter: More than 300 homes under mandatory evacuation orders tonight. Officials urgently trying to drain this massive pond at the piney point phosphate plant filled with 340 million gallons of waste water, to prevent it from collapsing. Officials say the lining supporting the structure cracked last week. If breached, it could send a 20-foot wall of toxic water crashing into the neighborhood. What we're looking at now is trying to prevent and respond to, if need be, a real catastrophic flood situation. Reporter: Engineers now releasing more than 30 million gallons of water every day, hoping to avoid that catastrophe. This National Guard helicopter, bringing in additional pumps to speed up the pumping process. Is there an estimate on how long this could take? We were looking at 12 days. With the assistance of the state and all these partners working together to get the pressure down, we can shorethat up. Reporter: Today, governor Ron Desantis, touring the site from above. Officials stressing the water being discharged is not radioactive. There is also no threat to our primary source of drinking water, lake manatee. Some hopeful news there. Stephanie, at this hour, officials appear to be sounding a bit more optimistic about the situation. Reporter: They are much more optimistic. Initially, officials were concerned about 800 million gallons of waste water flooding the neighborhoods. Now they're dealing with less than 400 million. This is where the evacuation zone begins. They're still advising residents

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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