8 INVESTIGATES: Private wells tested for contamination after sinkhole swallows radioactive water

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POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Testing is underway on the wells of dozens of Mosaic neighbors in Mulberry and nearby Lithia to determine if their wells are contaminated.A sinkhole, opened under a gypsum stack, August 27th, and sucked 215 million gallons of radioactive contaminated water into the aquifer, our source of drinking water.

Technicians showed up at James Maxwell’s house in Lithia to take samples of water from his well. “I’m scared to death, what it’s already done to me and my neighbors out here,” said James.

Scared because he lives near Mosaic’s New Wales fertilizer plant in Mulberry. “I saw it on Channel 8,” added James.

No one informed the public, until 8 On Your Side broke the news last week.

James’ well is one of at least 40 that Mosaic plans to test for contamination. Mosaic hired ECT, a Tampa company, to take samples from the wells of neighbors who want their wells tested.

Gary Uehelhoer, senior vice president of ECT, expects to test at least 30 wells on Tuesday. According to Uehelhoer, a company by the name of Pace Analytical Labs will do the actual testing of the samples gathered by ECT.

“Mosaic has instructed us to authorize the lab for a very expedited turnaround time,” Uehelhoer said.  “We expect results within a day or two.”

Denise Todd lives 5 minutes from the New Wales plant. “I think we should have been told immediately,” said Denise.

Her water already smells, now she is concerned about contaminants coming her way. “Something that has toxic waste that goes into the aquifer and you didn’t tell anybody?  That concerns me, that concerns me,” added Denise.

She has three words for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection which kept the lid on info about the leak. “Shame on you,” she said.

According to DEP spokesperson Dee Ann Miller, staff continues to perform frequent site visits to safeguard the public health and environment. “Monitoring to date continues to indicate that the process water is being successfully contained, and that there is no evidence of offsite movement or threat to offsite groundwater supplies,” Miller wrote in an email.  “Groundwater monitoring will continue to ensure there are no offsite or long-term effects.”

Denise Todd and James Maxwell are skeptical about the well testing. “The way I feel about it, they should have let us pick the firm that we wanted to test the water and they should’ve fit the bill because they did the damage,” said James.

According to Mosaic, the contaminated plume has not moved beyond its property.  Traces of the contaminants have shown up in a recovery well that is pumping water from the aquifer.  The company says it has a series of monitoring wells all around the gypsum stack and that no contaminants have made their way to them.

Mosaic also claims there is no evidence that the sinkhole has grown or is endangering other containment pools in the gypsum stack.  Neighbors who want their well tested can contact Mosaic at 813 500-6575.

If you have something that you think should be investigated call our 8 On Your Side Helpline at 1 800 338-0808

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