The authorities in Florida said on Sunday that they were making progress in their efforts to drain a leaking reservoir holding more than 300 million gallons of wastewater but warned that were it to breach, it could result in a 20-foot wall of water.
“What we’re looking at now is trying to prevent and respond to, if need be, a real catastrophic flood situation,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said at news conference on Sunday morning.
The governor issued an executive order on Saturday declaring a state of emergency for three counties that could be affected by the leaking 79-acre reservoir.
Controlled releases from the reservoir to reduce the chances of a full-fledged breach started on Friday, officials said, resulting in an average of 35 million gallons a day being siphoned.
according to a website tracking developments about the reservoir.
“The water meets water quality standards for marine waters with the exception of pH, total phosphorus, total nitrogen and total ammonia nitrogen,” the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said. “It is slightly acidic, but not at a level that is expected to be a concern.”
according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
“If there were to be a full breach, a section of the gypsum stack would be part of that breach,” Mr. Hopes said.
The authorities said there were no public water supply wells in the evacuation zone. Ms. Baugh said that water customers in Manatee County “can rest assured that their drinking water is completely safe to drink,” and that people who rely on well water “also at this point have no need for concern.”
“If a breach occurs,” Ms. Baugh added, “we believe that the surface layers of dirt and earth will safely filter any harmful nutrients near the surface.”
The Florida Department of Health would issue water quality advisories if necessary, she said.
Mr. Hopes said it was unlikely that officials would seek to repair a liner in the leaking reservoir. He suggested instead that efforts would be made to deplete the holding ponds and then move to a permanent solution, like filling and capping them.
Bryan Pietsch contributed reporting.