Green Guide

Dozens seek water testing after fertilizer plant leak

Posted September 20

— Dozens of residents who live near a Florida fertilizer plant that has leaked more than 200 million gallons of contaminated water into a drinking water aquifer have asked for their water wells to be tested for pollutants.

The Mosaic Co., the world's largest phosphate provide and owner of the plant, said it had received 70 requests for well water testing, which it will provide for free.

The move comes weeks after a leak was discovered on Aug. 27 at its New Wales facility in central Florida after a sinkhole opened up under a pile of contaminated waste.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller says there is no evidence the contaminated water has moved beyond the site and is threatening groundwater supplies.

The leak occurred after a sinkhole opened beneath a pile of waste material called a "gypsum stack." A pond atop the pile drained into the sinkhole, reaching the aquifer, Mosaic said.

While the company alerted state and federal environmental agencies in August, the public was not notified until last week.

The sinkhole allowed the water to migrate into The Floridan aquifer, a major source of drinking water in the state. It's one of the highest producing aquifers in the world and underlies all of Florida and southern Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.

The cities of Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Tampa, and St. Petersburg all rely on the aquifer and it also supplies water to thousands of domestic, industrial and irrigation wells throughout the state.

The DEP's Miller says the waste water pond was emptied by the sinkhole, but some seepage continues through the stack into the ground.

"Mosaic continues to capture the process water by pumping through its system of recovery wells," she said in an email. "Again, monitoring to date indicates that the process water is being successfully contained and groundwater monitoring will continue to ensure there are no offsite or long-term effects."

Mosaic did not return a message seeking comment.

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