Florida Water Crisis
September 26, 2016
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Suppose living in a community with nothing but contaminated water to drink from. With only water bottles provided, the citizens of central Florida are desperately searching for answers. Could there possibly be another Flint water crisis taking place down south? It’s all over the news, an enormous sinkhole opened up in central Florida causing 215 million gallons of contaminated wastewater to leak into one of the state’s main underground sources of drinking water. This radioactive water leaked from a fertilizer plant and opened the massive sinkhole. Mosaic, the worlds largest phosphate supplier called it a “water loss incident.” The 45 foot wide sinkhole appeared under a pile of waste material called a gypsum stack, swiftly tearing through the liner and draining gallons of storage pond that sat on top of it. Some of the waste went directly into the Floridan aquifer. Mosaic’s senior director for environmental and phosphate projects, David Jellerson, stated “groundwater moves very slowly, there’s absolutely nobody at risk.”
Yet, how much can the community of central Florida sincerely trust this company? The government was notified of the situation on August 27, 2016 but the Mosaic company did not notify the public until three weeks later. Can “slightly” radioactive water containing sulphate, sodium and gypsum really be no big deal? Although majority of central Florida has been affected, the company is confident that the contaminated water will never reach Southwest Florida. This isn’t the first time the company’s toxic waste escaped confinement, therefore they’re well prepared on how to handle the situation.
The mosaic company says they began draining the contaminated water from the aquifer as soon as the alarm was raised. But locals say Mosaic, who paid two billion dollars in fines over its hazardous waste pollution, is not doing enough. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency discovered that Mosaic improperly handled its facilities, threatening the environment and human health. Citizens are stating how there is no proof that the company is actually working on fixing the problem. Local resident of central Florida, Mashell Hooker says he noticed a change in drinking water approximately two weeks ago. “We noticed a strong like rotten egg smell, we’ve never had sulfur in our water. We’ve never noticed a smell like that before” He said.
Environmental groups added that the damage from the sinkhole could be severe, adding decades of pollution from the phosphorus fertilizer industry. Sadly, environmental tragedies occurring at a Florida phosphate mining site is no surprise, considering how repeatedly they’ve taken place. “These phosphate companies are playing roulette with our public waters,” says Tania Galloni an attorney at the Florida office of Earthjustice. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) has been performing frequent site visits to make sure that the public health and the environment are being protected. Without such a positive community, though, these reoccurring tragedies would only feel worse. To some people, these incidents are a reminder of how connected resident are to the environment; oddly enough, it drives the community closer together.