[video - about 1 minute, and links in on-line article]
Florida Fertilizer Plant Sinkhole Reportedly Leaks 215 Million Gallons
of Radioactive Water Into Aquifer
A massive sinkhole at a fertilizer plant in Mulberry, Florida, has
caused about 215 million gallons of radioactive water to drain down into
the Floridian aquifer system, according to ABC affiliate WFTS.
The aquifer system supplies drinking water to millions of Florida
residents, according to the St. Johns Water Management District's
website. Additionally, water that escapes from the aquifers create
springs used for recreational activities like snorkeling and swimming.
The fertilizer company Mosaic wrote on its website that it discovered a
sinkhole 45 feet in diameter at its New Wales facility after noticing
water levels had dropped in a stack of radioactive waste product known
as phosphogypsum in late August.
Phosphogypsum is a waste product resulting from the processing of
phosphate to make fertilizers, according to the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency. The byproduct is often stored by industrial plants in
mountainous piles known as phosphogysum stacks.
"Based on the nature of the water loss and what we've learned so far,"
the sinkhole damaged the liner system at the base of a phosophogypsum
stack, Mosaic said on Thursday. "The pond on top of the cell drained as
a result" and "some seepage continues."
The fertilizer company added that it believes the sinkhole reached the
Floridian aquifer, and WFTS reported that the company told the station
about 215 million gallons of contaminated water used to process
fertilizer drained had into the hole.
After learning of the water loss, "Mosaic immediately implemented
additional and extensive groundwater monitoring and sampling regimens
and has found no offsite impacts," the company said. Additionally,
Mosaic "began pumping water out of the west cell" of the affected
phosphogypsum stack "into an alternative holding area on site to reduce
the amount of drainage."
The company has also "begun the process of recovering the water" drained
through the sinkhole "by pumping through onsite production wells," it said.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) "confirmed
that Mosaic immediately took steps to investigate and initiate
corrective action," according to FDEP Deputy Press Secretary Dee Ann Miller.
"As required by their state permit and federal requirements, Mosaic
notified both EPA and DEP of a water loss incident at their New Wales
facility," Miller told ABC News today. "Mosaic continues to regularly
update the department and EPA on progress."
Miller added that along with reviewing daily reports, the FDEP "is
performing frequent site visits to make sure timely and appropriate
response continues in order to safeguard public health and the environment."
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