MULBERRY -- Crews at Mosaic’s New Wales fertilizer plant are working frantically to remove contaminated, radioactive water from the Floridan aquifer.
The sinkhole opened at the plant almost three weeks ago, when an employee noticed an extreme drop in the water level at one of the gypsum stack's containment ponds.
When the earth opened up, the liner below the containment pond broke, and the massive sinkhole swallowed more than 215 million gallons of water. The hole is 45 feet wide, and officials said they don’t know how deep.
The company admits the water is slightly radioactive. It has been contaminated by the gypsum, which is a byproduct of the fertilizer they make.
The Mosaic Company is the world’s largest supplier of phosphate fertilizer, used to help grow crops.
“When (the radioactive water) goes down, it mixes with the aquifer water,” Senior Environmental Director David Jellerson said.
They're now working quickly to get it out of the aquifer by pumping it back into a holding area at the plant. Still, the process could take months.
Jellerson said they've been able to contain the radioactive water to Mosaic's property, so there’s no concern about well water being contaminated.
“I can assure you nothing has left the immediate area of the sinkhole,” he said.
That isn't enough, however, to keep some local residents from worrying about the situation.
Mosaic let the county, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency know about the sinkhole, which they're required to do. Those agencies are also closely monitoring it and said as far as they can tell, the water has been successfully contained to the plant.
Community members can call Mosaic at 813-500-6575 with questions or concerns or to request free drinking water well testing.
(© 2016 WTSP)