Leak at wastewater pond prompts evacuations in Florida

BRADENTON, Fla. — Officials in Florida were evacuating homes and a highway Saturday near a large reservoir of wastewater because of a significant leak that authorities fear could lead to floods and a collapse of a system with radioactive material.

The area under evacuation is north of Bradenton, Florida. News outlets say the Red Cross has been called in to help residents.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says a break was detected Friday in one of the walls of a 77-acre (33-hectare) pond, holding millions of water containing phosphorus and nitrogen from an old phosphate plant.

The Tampa Bay Times says the reservoir in question held about 480 million gallons (about 1.8 billion liters) of wastewater before the company that operates it began discharging some of it to Port Manatee this week. At least 25 million gallons of the water had been discharged by early Thursday.

The pond where the leak was discovered is part of a system with stacks of phosphogypsum, a waste product from manufacturing fertilizer that is radioactive.

Officials worry that the collapse of the system could spew polluted water as well as radioactive material into the area.