A massive sinkhole at a Florida fertilizer plant has caused more than 200 million gallons of radioactive water to leak into a main source of the state’s drinking water.
The sinkhole, which measures 45 feet in diameter and is 300 feet deep, opened up beneath a pile of waste material at Mosaic, the world’s largest supplier of phosphate.
A storage pond containing 215 million gallons of radioactive water sat atop the waste mineral pile and has drained into the Floridian aquifer system, which supplies drinking water to millions of residents.
Aquifers are vast, underground systems of porous rocks that hold water and allow it to move through the holes within the rock.
The Floridan aquifer, one of the highest producing in the world, is the principal source of groundwater for most of the state, and extends into southern Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.
Mosaic said it is monitoring the groundwater and has not found evidence that any off-site water has been contaminated.
‘Groundwater moves very slowly,’ said David Jellerson, Mosaic’s senior director for environmental and phosphate projects.
‘There’s absolutely nobody at risk.’
The sinkhole was discovered at Mosaic’s New Wales facility in late August, after an employee noticed water levels had dropped in the pile of waste material known as phosphogypsum, according to Good Morning America.
It was discovered that the sinkhole damaged the phosphogypsum stacks, created during the processing of phosphate to make fertilizer, and the pond on top ‘drained as a result’.
The pond on top ‘drained as a result’, taking gallons of acidic water, laced with sulfate and sodium, into the sinkhole, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
An unknown amount of the fertilizer byproduct, which contains low levels of radiation, also fell into the sinkhole with the water.
Mosaic said ‘some seepage continues’ but said it did not inform the public of the sinkhole for three weeks after the discovery because it found there was ‘no risk’.