A massive sinkhole at a fertilizer plant in Mulberry, Florida, has caused about 215 million gallons of radioactive water to drain down into the Floridian aquifer system, according to ABC affiliate WFTS. 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. The fertilizer company Mosaic wrote on its website that it discovered a sinkhole 45 feet in diameter at its New Wales facility after noticing water levels had dropped in a stack of radioactive waste product known as phosphogypsum in late August.
Phosphogypsum is a waste product resulting from the processing of phosphate to make fertilizers, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The byproduct is often stored by industrial plants in mountainous piles known as phosphogysum stacks.