The US state of Florida has declared a state of emergency after contaminated water leaked from a large pool in which toxic sewage has accumulated in Tampa Bay.
State authorities issued evacuation orders for more than 300 homes in the area, and closed the highway near the Penny Point reservoir.
Residents have received text messages on their phones asking them to leave their homes immediately.
Officials said the 77-acre pond contains billions of liters of water contaminated with phosphorous and nitrogen that was produced by an old phosphate plant.
The crisis does not stop there. The pond, the source of the leak, is in a pile of phosphogypsum, which is a radioactive waste resulting from the manufacture of fertilizers.
The water contains small amounts of naturally occurring radium and uranium, and chimneys can also emit radon.
Attempts to stop the leak late on Friday were unsuccessful, although the authorities used stones and other materials to block the hole through which the toxic materials came out.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency on Saturday.
Manate County Director Scott Hobbs told a news conference that there are concerns that the water may flood the area and it is mostly agricultural.
He said, “We are talking about the possibility of about 2.3 billion liters of contaminated water escaping within seconds and minutes, leaving this storage basin and submerging the surrounding area.”
Thousands of liters are being pumped every minute to reduce the volume of water in the reservoir, while other workers control the flow of this water and direct it to non-dangerous areas.
By declaring a state of emergency, money could be disbursed to send more pumps and cranes to the area.