TAMPA – A sinkhole that opened at the popular Busch Gardens theme park in Tampa Bay is not threatening any tourist attractions but has swallowed an estimated 2.5 million gallons of wastewater, according to environmental officials.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said staff at Busch Gardens notified the agency on November 18 of a sinkhole that measured around 15 feet wide and 15 feet deep under a retention pond.
The site is not far from the Congo River Rapids ride, on the northwest side of the park, but at no time were guests or animals reported to be in danger from the sudden changes in terrain.
According to Tampa’s FOX13, the lake is one of several waterways that the park uses to treat runoff from animal enclosures and is not used to hold raw sewage.
The theme park annually attracts around 4 million visitors and, in addition to the popular rides, is home to an estimated 12,000 animals.
"On November 18, we reported the opening of a sinkhole under one of our retention ponds to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection," officials with Busch Gardens Tampa Bay told FOX13. "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."
Central Florida is no stranger to sinkholes and is often referred to as the sinkhole capital of the U.S.
The latest event is only about 10 miles from where a sinkhole swallowed a man as he slept in his home in 2013.
Geologists say heavy rainfall can often lead to erosion and the formation of depressions or sinkholes in the Sunshine State.
According to the FDEP, weathering of limestone plays a significant role in the changes in terrain.
Depressions and holes caused by broken drainpipes, septic tanks and improperly compacted soil are often misclassified as sinkholes.
Neither the park nor the state agency have publicly stated why they believe the ground suddenly gave way.
Geologists continue to closely monitor the site as a plan is constructed to address the sinkhole and any possible future effects.