The reservoir in the Tampa area could lead to a structural collapse at any time, according to Jacob Sauer, director of public safety for Manatee County, who gave an update on Saturday.
The leak in the security wall was discovered about a week ago and residents of the area were evacuated Thursday, officials said.
Government funds are used in the region, including pumps and machines.
On Friday, crews worked overnight to fix the leak, but those attempts were unsuccessful, Sauer said.
He said part of the security wall at the leak had shifted sideways and the on-site engineers viewed the situation as escalating and all command personnel and residents were asked to evacuate.
“We’re talking about the potential of approximately 480 million gallons in seconds and minutes as we step out of this retention pool and explore,” said Scott Hopes, Manatee County administrator.
These two ponds contain “debris that would be less conducive to life on land and … marine life,” said Hopes, without going into the specific waste material.
Should the sidewall break through and “create a substantial opening,” Hopes said the hundreds of millions of gallons could escape.
Florida Minister for Environmental Protection Noah Valenstein said the water in the storage ponds at Piney Point Reservoir is acidic but not radioactive.
“We conduct rigorous water quality sampling every day to support future enforcement actions,” Valenstein said in a press release on Saturday. “While this water meets most marine water quality standards, it has elevated nutrient levels and is acidic. However, the water is not radioactive.”
The Piney Point facility is located about 40 miles south of downtown Tampa, but the population density is “extremely low,” Hopes said.
“We tried unsuccessfully to contain this water for 20 years,” said Hopes.
CNN’s Hollie Silverman and Alta Spells contributed to this report.
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