Engineers build rig in order to find the bottom of massive toxic sinkhole

Posted at 6:30 PM, Oct 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-17 18:30:10-04

The toxic sinkhole that drained 215-million gallons of radioactive water into the aquifer is at least 220-feet deep from the surface to the top of the gypsum that fell into the hole, according to data engineers recently collected.

The hole extends even deeper, however, the gypsum material that fell in is preventing them from getting a solid measurement.

Company officials released new pictures and drone video on Monday from the two-day operation that involved building a rig and dropping what’s called “Li-Dar”, using light rays to map distances.

Since crews couldn’t safely walk to the edge of the hole, contractors ran a long cable from one side to the other.

“That cable is something very similar to what you’re used to — NFL football games. When the video (camera) goes across the field, it’s the same type of cable and same type of mechanism,” said Hershel Morris, Vice President of Phosphate Operations for Mosaic.

Once in place, engineers finally started to gather the data they waited months to see.

The takeaway: from the top of the hole to the top of the gypsum that fell in stretches a staggering 220-feet deep. That’s roughly the length of five school buses if you stack them one on top of the other.

Company officials still believe every drop of the 215-million gallons of radioactive water seeped through into the aquifer.

Recovery pumps installed continue to retrieve that water at a rate of 35-hundred gallons per minute.

“We’re going to do whatever it takes to make this thing right,” Morris said.

The technology available today trimmed months of the operation.

In 1994 when a similar incident occurred, engineers had to drill multiple holes to determine the death and scope of the hole which took several months.

Today, workers know exactly how close they can safely get to start pumping it full of concrete.

Mosaic hopes to begin that process by mid-December.