Massive Mulberry sinkhole filled, trust issues linger for Mosaic

8 On Your Side

A massive sinkhole that swallowed millions of gallons of radioactive water and threatened nearby wells in Mulberry is finally filled.

Mosaic says it took nearly two years and 20,000 cubic yards of grout to fill the void at the New Wales fertilizer plant.

The sinkhole cratered beneath a gypsum stack in late August 2016.  

It flushed 215 million gallons of slightly radioactive contaminated water used in the fertilizer process into the aquifer.

Mosaic contends it is capturing that water with an aggressive pumping effort.

But after a less than forthcoming beginning, neighbors aren’t so sure.

“It sounds good, I reckon, but I don’t believe it. Nobody else does either. I don’t think they do,” said neighbor Eddie Tuten.  

Our investigation found that in late August 2016, Mosaic employees saw an alarming dip in the water level in the gypsum stack.

The company alerted the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

DEP kept it quiet for nearly three weeks, failing to notify neighbors who were on well water.

In September, News Channel 8’s helicopter flew over the site and we blew the lid off the state’s dirty secret.

A massive sinkhole had opened, draining the contaminated water in the aquifer.

Within days of our initial report, Mosaic’s Vice President, Walt Precourt, addressed Polk’s Board of County Commissioners.  

At the September 2016 meeting, Precourt apologized for not informing the county, but did not explain why the company kept local government in the dark.  

So Target 8 asked him why.

“Sure there’s a time and a place where I’ll address that with you later,” said Precourt.  “It feels like now if I get into that, I’m making excuses and to me it’s not a true heartfelt apology and that’s what this is.”

DEP refused to provide any on-camera explanation about why it failed to notify the public.  

So we asked Governor Scott..

“They did their job, started the investigation immediately. They’re accelerating that investigation. They’re going to continue doing it and they’re going to hold anybody accountable if anybody did anything,” the governor stated.

Fast forward nearly two years, the repairs are done. Will they hold?

“The grouting project itself, we took many core samples that show that the grout injections are successfully binding with the soil,” said Mosaic’s Dave Jellerson.

The company has 84 monitoring wells on site.

“All of the wells demonstrated that the water that was released down the sinkhole has been retained on site and is being effectively contained. No wells off site have been affected by this,” added Jellerson.

To the naked eye, the sinkhole appears gone.

Mosaic says it will never again put processed water or gypsum atop the sinkhole area.

The company will continue monitoring the wells of neighbors for years to come.

Mosaic also continues supplying bottled water to some neighbors.

If you have something that you think should be investigated call our Target 8 Helpline at 1-800-3338-0808. Contact Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com.

Follow Steve Andrews on Facebook

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