Governor ignores secrecy, defends DEP in sinkhole contamination

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Rick Scott wants you to know Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection is monitoring the affects of a sinkhole that dropped radioactive water into the aquifer in Mulberry. What he didn’t say is why the department kept that contamination a secret.

The sinkhole opened Aug. 27 beneath a gypsum stack at Mosaic’s New Wales fertilizer plant. It dumped 215 million gallons of radioactive water into our aquifer. DEP and Mosaic did not inform neighbors until after 8 On Your Side exposed this potential environmental disaster, three weeks later.

The governor is defending the department.

RELATED: 8 INVESTIGATES: First test results back from private wells near Mosaic sinkhole


“Within 24 hours after they were notified, they started the investigation. They continued to actively to do that investigation, and if somebody has done anything wrong, we’re going to hold them accountable,” Scott said in Tampa Thursday.

When it was pointed out that DEP did not notify the public, the governor responded, “They started doing their investigation immediately. They’re working with Mosaic to make sure we put that information out as quickly as possible.”

Sure, now that 8 On Your Side brought this to light, the department is sharing information with neighbors.

“They have a right to know if their drinking water is potentially contaminated. There is no excuse for not being transparent on this,” state representative Dana Young, R-Tampa, said.

It’s the department’s contention it’s not legally obligated to inform the public about this. “If DEP doesn’t today have a legal obligation to inform the public then we need to change the law and make sure that they have a requirement to inform the public,” Young said.

RELATED: 8 INVESTIGATES: State kept Hillsborough in dark about Mosaic sinkhole contamination

Mosaic apologized for trying to keep the sinkhole and the contaminated dumping of water into the aquifer a secret.

When confronted in Tallahassee, DEP couldn’t whisk away a chuckling deputy secretary Gary Clark fast enough.

“They did their job of starting the investigation immediately. They’re accelerating that investigation; they’re going to continue doing it and they’re going hold anybody that did anything wrong accountable if anybody did,” the governor stated when asked if anyone at DEP would be terminated over the secrecy.

When asked if anyone would investigate the department, the governor sad, “We’re going to investigate. What we’re going to do is make sure, we’re going to focus on water quality.”

Meanwhile, the New York law firm of Weitz & Luxenberg filed a federal class action on behalf of people living near the fertilizer plant.  The proposed class-action lawsuit filed Thursday seeks to recover damages, including for the residents’ possible losses of private wells, and for water testing, monitoring and treatment.

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