Mosaic apologizes for Mulberry plant sinkhole

By Stephanie Claytor, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, September 21, 2016, 8:56 PM EDT

Mosaic officials apologized Tuesday during a Polk County Commission meeting for not notifying the public sooner about its sinkhole and leak of radioactive waste water.

“On behalf of Mosaic and our nearly 4,000 employees in Florida, we’d like to express our sincere regret that the sinkhole and water recovery operations on our property have caused concerns for the community,” said Walt Precourt, Senior Vice President of Phosphates for Mosaic.

“Our Mosaic team continues to work around the clock to review the situation, and our response to it. We continue to analyze the situation, and our response to it, and we realize we could have done a better job in providing timely information to our neighbors and the broader community. I regret and apologize for not providing information sooner, and am committed to providing regular updates to the public as we move forward.”

Mosaic admitted it made a mistake about not letting the community know about the massive sinkhole on its property sooner. That decision led county commissioners to review their actions, as well.

County commissioner Melony Bell wishes she had gotten more information about how bad the sinkhole was when she received a phone call from Mosaic on Sept. 15. 

“If I could’ve done it differently, there should’ve been more communication between Mosaic, Department of Environmental Protection and the county of how do we go out and not alarm the residents but keep them on notice that they need to not drink their water and have their wells checked,“ said Commissioner Bell.

Polk County Commission Chair John Hall said there’s still confusion about whether the county was permitted to tell the public.

“The board of County Commissioners didn’t do any press releases because we’re pre-empted. Florida Department of Environmental Protection has the responsibility for all surface water, including lakes, streams, rivers and our underground, especially when there’s potential for contamination,” explained Commissioner John Hall.  

Commissioner Bell said the commission, Mosaic and the state’s Department of Environmental Protection are planning a meeting, so they can discuss protocol and how to prevent this miscommunication from happening again.

“I think this is a learning lesson for all of us,“ Commissioner Bell said.

Since the sinkhole hit national news, Bell said Mosaic is now communicating with her daily. She said her main concern right now is the daily results of citizen’s wells being tested.

Mosaic has maintained that the leaking radioactive water hasn’t left its property. It’s currently pumping the contaminated water out of the Floridian aquifer and into a separate holding well.

The company Environmental Consulting and Technology, Inc. (ECT) is testing wells of citizens in the area, at the expense of Mosaic.

It tested nine wells Monday and the results came in Wednesday. The company’s Senior Vice President, Gary Uebelhoer said the water in those wells had typical water quality levels, which led him to believe the contaminated water from Mosaic’s sinkhole didn’t reach those wells as of Monday.