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article imageSinkhole in Fla. leaks radioactive wastewater into aquifer

By Karen Graham     Sep 19, 2016 in Environment
A massive sinkhole beneath a phosphate strip mine in Central Florida allowed contaminated wastewater to flow into the Floridian aquifer for three weeks before the public was ever notified.
According to reports, the 200,000-acre phosphate strip mining facility belongs to Mosaic, the world’s largest combined producer of potash and phosphates fertilizers. The sinkhole at Mosaic's New Wales facility in the town of Mulberry was discovered by a company worker on 27 August.
According to Mosaic, the massive 45-foot in diameter sinkhole opened up underneath a pile of waste material called a "gypsum stack." The 215,000-gallon wastewater pond drained into the sinkhole and on down into the Floridian Aquifer. In the aerial video shot above the sinkhole, wastewater can be seen pouring into the depths of the hole.
The slightly radioactive phosphogypsum in the wastewater is produced during the mining of phosphates when sulfuric acid is applied to phosphoric ore, releasing naturally occurring uranium and radium. Florida also has the world's largest phosphate mine, with 40 percent of the ore being shipped overseas.
Mosaic official David Jellerson said the wastewater posed no threat to the public, adding that "groundwater moves very slowly," and no contaminated water had reached private supplies, according to the BBC.
However, Jacki Lopez, Florida director of the Center for Biological Diversity, told Reuters news agency, according to EcoWatch: "It's hard to trust them when they say 'Don't worry,' when they've been keeping it secret for three weeks."
"Mosaic wants to mine an additional 50,000 acres of Florida's beautiful, biodiverse lands, but this incident makes clear it can't even handle the radioactive waste it currently generates," she added.
This is not the first time Mosaic has been in the news over the handling of its hazardous waste. In October of 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Mosaic settled a lawsuit in which Mosaic agreed to pay $2.0 billion in fixes, improvements and cleanups at its plants.
For now, the company says, "We have an extensive monitoring system, and it's already indicating that it's recovering the material, but it will take some time for that process to complete."
The Floridian Aquifer is one of the world's highest producing aquifers and underlies all of Florida. It extends into southern Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. It is the main source of groundwater for much of the state and also supplies water to thousands of domestic, industrial and irrigation wells.
More about wastewater leak, mosaic company, phosphogypsum, slightly radioactive, floridian aquifer
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