A sinkhole spanning 45 feet (13.7 meters) in diameter opened at a Mosaic Co phosphate fertilizer facility in Florida, leaking 215 million gallons of “slightly radioactive water,” a company spokesman said on Friday.
Mosaic said the monitoring system at its New Wales facility at Mulberry, Florida, showed a decline in water levels on Aug. 27 from the retention pond of a phosphogypsum stack, a hill of hazardous waste. Phosphogypsum is a radioactive byproduct resulting from the production of phosphate.
The Minnesota-based company immediately reported the incident to state and federal environmental authorities, Mosaic spokesman Ben Pratt said on Friday. But it did not otherwise report it publicly until posting information on its website on Thursday, he said.
The leaked water is enough to fill more than 300 Olympic swimming pools.
The nearly three-week gap between detecting the sinkhole and reporting it to the public is alarming, said Jacki Lopez, Florida director of the Center for Biological Diversity.
“It’s hard to trust them when they say ‘Don’t worry,’ when they’ve been keeping it secret for three weeks,” she said.