He said a collapse could lead to "600 million gallons in a matter of seconds or minutes leaving the retention pool and going over the surrounding areas".
The initial evacuation zone included between 15 and 20 houses, and officials say all of them have been evacuated.
Workers have been pumping out thousands of gallons per minute at the site to bring the volume down in the event the pond bursts.
A new expanded emergency evacuation order was sent out to an area around Piney Point, the former phosphate mine. Pumping the entire pond would take 10 to 12 days.
Another fear has been the water leaking or overflowing into Tampa Bay that is right next to it.
Manatee County, the state and HRK Holdings, who now owns the property, have worked for years in finding a solution. Phosphogypsum is a regulated, radioactive substance that is the byproduct of fertilizer manufacturing, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It contains small amounts of naturally occurring radium and uranium, and the stacks also can release large concentrations of radon gas, according to the AP. We saw ducks yesterday, there are snooks swimming in there.
Those two ponds hold "waste that would be less conducive to life on land and. life in the sea", Hopes said, without elaborating on the specific waste material.
Those efforts worked temporarily, but appeared to have failed by Saturday, officials said.
PHOTO: Wastewater is suspected to be leaking at the old Piney Point phosphate plant at the water management at HRK Holdings' property, in Palmetto, Fla., March 30, 2021.
"For more than fifty years, this Central Florida mining operation has caused numerous human health and environmental disasters and incidents, including evacuations from sulfuric acid leaks, deaths of multiple employees, the release of more than 1 billion gallons of contaminated wastewater, and ongoing, regular gypsum stack and reservoir leaks from poor construction and maintenance that released heavy metals and pollutants into the region's water and soil", Fried writes. The wastewater stored in the gypsum stacks can't be seen from the ground as the piles surrounding the structure can go as high as 150m.