Millions of Florida residents’ water could possibly be affected after a giant sinkhole opened up under a contaminant pond at a fertilizer plant in central Florida.
According to WFTS, 215 million gallons of water was dumped into the Floridan aquifer. The aquifer supplies water to millions of Floridians, and water that escapes the aquifer goes to springs that are used for recreational activities.
The sinkhole was discovered in late August at a Mosaic fertilizer plant in Mulberry, Florida. According to the company’s website, a phosphogypsum stack monitoring system alerted the company to irregular levels in the pond above the cell.
Based on the nature of this water loss and on what we’ve learned so far, a sinkhole formed under the west cell that we believe damaged the liner system at the base of the stack. The pond on top of the cell drained as a result, although some seepage continues. We estimate that the hole is approximately 45 feet in diameter and believe the sinkhole reaches the Floridan aquifer.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) describes phosphogypsum as a “radioactive waste product that results from processing phosphate ore to make the phosphoric acid used in fertilizer.” The phosphogypsum is usually stored in large piles called stacks.
So far, no contaminated water has been detected at any offsite locations.
Press secretary for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Dee Ann Miller said that they are monitoring the situation to protect public health.
“[FDEP] is performing frequent site visits to make sure timely and appropriate response continues in order to safeguard public health and the environment.”