The fertilizer company waited three weeks to alert the public.
Sinkholes are common in Florida, but the one that collapsed near Mulberry was unusually massive. It measured 45 meters in diameter and was very inconveniently placed. The hole opened up just beneath a wastewater pond where Mosaic, the largest phosphate fertilizer producer in the world, stores their waste.
The pond contains “gypsum stack,” which is composed of sulfate, gypsum, sodium and radioactive phosphogypsum, all of which was dumped straight through the sinkhole and into Florida’s largest and primary aquifer.
To make matters worse, the fertilizer company failed to inform the public of the leak for nearly three weeks after the water became contaminated. Though the wastewater pond was quickly diverted, approximately 215 million gallons of the contaminated water poured into the aquifer before the company patched up their mistake.
The local community is outraged that they weren’t alerted sooner, but Mosaic has insisted that the water is slow moving and has not yet reached the public’s current water supply.
Mosaic has been involved in massive environmental disasters in the past, and yet they still have not learned their lesson. Their first run-in with a sinkhole was in 1994, when one formed underneath a different wastewater pond and leaked into the ground.
The most recent catastrophe occurred in 2004, when Hurricane Frances caused 65 million gallons of wastewater to flow into water that neared Tampa Bay. For this disaster, the company recently reached a settlement with the EPA by agreeing to pay the $2 billion worth of damages, cleanup costs, and upgrades to local infrastructure that was adversely affected.
If $2 billion didn’t cause the company to re-evaluate their best practices when it comes to waste storage, there’s not much else that can be done to convince Mosaic that their harmful business comes at a huge cost to the environment, humans, and other creatures as well.
While this incident is relatively isolated, the effects of phosphorous fertilizer strips away farm fields and feeds toxic algae blooms in freshwater everyday, which contaminates lakes and drinking water. It’s essentially horrible for all involved, except those making money off of it.
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