Is the Florida water supply safe?
A massive sinkhole with a 45-foot diameter opened up in Mulberry, Florida, allowing contaminated water to leak into the Florida aquifer. The sinkhole opened up beneath a phosphate company storage pond, leaking contaminated wastewater from a Central Florida fertilizer plant. Mosaic, the world’s largest supplier of phosphate, said the sinkhole opened up beneath a pile of waste material called a “gypsum stack.”
According to local news reports, the retention pond was holding 215 millions of gallons of “slightly radioactive” water that was also contaminated with phosphoric acid, all of which drained into the Floridan Aquifer. 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.
Of course, despite taking a week to discover the sinkhole and admitting they have no idea where the contaminated water flowed once underground, the company announced there is no cause for concern. The state has also not raised any alarms about the situation yet. The company has “begun the process of recovering the water” drained through the sinkhole “by pumping through on-site production wells,” it said. Many nearby homeowners rely on well water. The Polk County phosphate plant is still running.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection “confirmed that Mosaic immediately took steps to investigate and initiate corrective action,” according to FDEP Deputy Press Secretary Dee Ann Miller.
The Floridan aquifer is one of the highest producing aquifers in the world, spanning all of Florida and extending into Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. According to the University of Florida, it’s the principal source of groundwater for much of the state, and the cities of Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Tampa and St. Petersburg all rely on it.
Maybe Flint, Michigan makes Floridians want to keep a closer eye on this one.