2 Sinkhole causes 980 million litres of radioactive water to leak into Florida aquifer

Sinkhole1A sinkhole has opened up at a fertiliser plant in the US, causing about 980 million litres of radioactive water to leak into one of Florida's main underground sources of drinking water.

The sinkhole, which is about 14 metres in diameter, collapsed beneath a pile of waste material called a "gypsum stack".

Sitting on top of the stack was a storage pond containing phosphogypsum, which is a radioactive by-product resulting from the production of phosphate.

Mosaic, the world's largest supplier of phosphate, said the hole at its New Wales facility in the town of Mulberry was discovered by a worker on August 27.

Sinkhole2It said the sinkhole is believed to reach down to the Floridan aquifer, which supplies drinking water to millions of residents in the state. Aquifers are huge underground systems of porous rocks that hold water.

The company said it was monitoring groundwater and there was no risk to the public as the leak had not reached private water supplies. It is working to recover the water using pumps and the plant is still running.

"Groundwater moves very slowly," senior Mosaic official David Jellerson told Associated Press, adding that the pond with the sinkhole was "now dry".

However, his reassurances failed to ease fears of contamination in the area.

Sinkhole3"It's hard to trust them when they say 'Don't worry,' when they've been keeping it secret for three weeks," Jacki Lopez, Florida director of the Center for Biological Diversity, told Reuters.

Mosaic said it immediately reported the incident to state and federal authorities.

Dee Ann Miller, spokeswoman for the state's Department of Environmental Protection, said the company was updating state and federal agencies on the situation.

You can read the full article from the Daily Telegraph HERE

Images credit AP - from top to bottom:

An aerial photograph of the massive sinkhole in Mulberry, Florida

The sinkhole, which is about 14 metres in diameter, opened up at a phosphate fertilizer plant

The sinkhole reaches down to the Floridan aquifier, which supplies drinking water to millions of residents

Last year, Mike Atherton wrote a series of articles on the phosphorus industry which you can read here -

Phosphorus - Infinite Resource or Finite Crisis?

Phosphorus II - Breaking the law?

The Peak Phosphorus debate...

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