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Over the weekend, hundreds of citizens living in Manatee County, Florida were ordered to flee due to the impending threat of a deluge of radioactive waste. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency out of fear that a local wastewater pond could imminently collapse, flooding the community and exposing them to harmful toxins.

The pond, which is located at a former phosphate processing plant-Piney Point, had developed what county officials described as a “significant leak”. A problem that they only foresaw as becoming significantly worse at an uncontrollable pace. Manatee Director of Public Safety, Jake Saur, shared that this sudden panic is due to the shifting of “a portion of the containment wall at the leak site” a change “signifying that structural collapse could occur at any time”.

On Sunday, the Florida National Guard deployed two CH-47 helicopters to situate two pumps at the scene in the hopes to lower the levels of the pond.

Yet, despite this pressing threat, officials have yet to fully evacuate the Manatee County Jail, even though it lies directly within the evacuation zone. Furthermore, the Manatee Country Sheriff’s Office confirmed to the public that of the over 1,000 inmates housed at the jail, so far they had only made plans to transfer 345 inmates to a separate, secure location.

Officials are not releasing intimate details of the transfer (due to security concerns). However, they did disclose that the purpose of the move was to “free up bed space” to the remaining 721 inmates on the upper floors of the jail. Additionally, officials anticipate that even if the flooding was to occur, the jail would not see more than a foot of water. However, this water would contain a high concentration of phosphogypsum-the refuse of processing phosphate ore which is radioactive waste.

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