Florida sinkhole at Mosaic Co fertilizer site leaks radioactive water

Sept 16 (Reuters) - A sinkhole spanning 45 feet (13.7 meters) in diameter opened at a Mosaic Co phosphate fertilizer facility in Florida, leaking radioactive water, the company said on Friday.

Mosaic said its 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. Phosphogypsum is a radioactive byproduct resulting from the production of phosphate.

The sinkhole damaged the liner system at the base of the stack, causing the pond on top to drain. Seepage continued and the sinkhole has reached Florida’s aquifer, Mosaic said on its website on Thursday. The aquifer may contain groundwater that could be contaminated by water from the sinkhole.

The incident released 215 million gallons of “slightly radioactive” water into the aquifer, Mosaic spokesman Ben Pratt said Friday.

The Minnesota-based company said it had increased monitoring and sampling of groundwater and found no offsite impacts, and pumped water out of the affected pond to reduce the volume of leakage.

It is attempting to recover the water through production wells on site.

The incident has not interrupted operations at the facility, where Mosaic makes phosphate fertilizer.

Mosaic said it immediately reported the incident to state and federal authorities. (Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Bernadette Baum)