TAMPA, Fla. — A sinkhole that opened under a wastewater treatment pond at Busch Gardens dumped an estimated 2.5 million gallons of treated water into the earth below the Florida theme park, state environmental regulators said.
Employees at the Tampa theme park discovered the sinkhole, which measured 15 feet by 15 feet, on Nov. 18, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The sinkhole opened in one of the three ponds used for the park’s on-site wastewater treatment, Brian Humphreys, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, told the newspaper.
“On November 18, we reported the opening of a sinkhole under one of our retention ponds to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection,” Busch Gardens spokesperson Eddie Delgado said in a statement, according to WTSP-TV. “The opening drained the pond of water underground.
“Water levels are monitored 24x7 and we were alerted to the issue as water levels began to slowly drop in the morning.”
After discovering the sinkhole, officials at Busch Gardens closed a low dam connecting the treatment ponds, the Times reported. The water that gushed into the area was enough to fill nearly four Olympic-size swimming pools, according to the newspaper.
The pond with the sinkhole is located near the popular Congo River Rapids ride, the Times reported.
The pond above the sinkhole does not hold raw sewage, Humphreys said.
When wastewater is cleaned at Busch Gardens, the first of three ponds removes biological material, the second pond removes nutrients and the third pond stores water as it is cycled through an ultraviolet disinfectant filter, according to the newspaper.
Water sampling is ongoing. Humphreys said the park contracted an engineering firm to develop a plan to address the sinkhole, the Times reported.
Florida’s environment department also has staff at Busch Gardens, including a professional geologist, who will monitor the situation at the park, according to the newspaper.