State officials say they are closely monitoring a 15-foot sinkhole that opened up in a wastewater treatment pond at Busch Gardens Tampa.
According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Busch Gardens employees discovered the sinkhole early Nov. 18. The sinkhole opened in one of three ponds in the theme park’s on-site wastewater treatment facility for its enclosure areas.
“The opening drained the pond and allowed approximately 2.5 million gallons of water to escape underground. Water levels are monitored 24×7 and we were alerted to the issue as water levels began to slowly drop in the morning,” a spokesperson for Busch Gardens wrote in a statement to the Catalyst.
The sinkhole opened up under the third pond in a chain of wastewater treatment ponds. DEP spokesperson Brian Humphreys said the pond does not hold raw sewage.
“The first pond removes biological material, the second pond removes nutrients and the third pond stores water as it is cycled through a UV disinfectant filter,” Humphreys said. “Water sampling is underway, and Busch Gardens has contracted with an engineering firm to develop a remedial action plan to address the sinkhole.”
A Busch Gardens employee told the Catalyst that water at the park was turned off for a few days while the park and state officials dealt with the sinkhole and subsequent water drainage. Humphreys said DEP has had staff onsite, including a professional geologist, to observe and monitor Busch Garden’s response.
A regulatory investigation is underway as DEP officials determine if there are any violations or potential enforcement actions that may need to take place. Humphreys said they are reviewing all permit, rule and reporting requirements. DEP will also be reviewing any proposed sinkhole remedial plan to ensure it is protective of the environment and public health and safety.
Humphreys adds that any impact the water spill may have had on the ground underneath the retention pond is being explored as part of the DEP investigation and remedial action plan development.