Congresswoman rips governor, DEP over sinkhole contamination secret

Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission  test creeks and streams for Mosaic contamination.
Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission test creeks and streams for Mosaic contamination.

(WFLA) – On Friday a Florida congresswoman ripped the governor and a state agency after the public was left in the dark about contamination caused by a Mosaic sinkhole. She says it’s inexcusable if Gov. Rick Scott failed to inform the public of the sinkhole – or if, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection failed to tell the governor.

Scott says he was kept in the dark about the massive sinkhole, which poses a threat to our water supply.

Citing an 8 On Your Side report from earlier this week, U.S. Congresswoman Gwen Graham,D-Tallahassee, argues Florida citizens deserve better from their government. Graham wants to know who knew what – and when.


On Wednesday 8 On Your Side revealed that the governor’s office claims that it too was kept in the dark about sinkhole that opened beneath a gypsum stack at a Mosaic fertilizer plant in Mulberry.

After touring the Mosaic sinkhole site by helicopter earlier this week, the Scott fumbled answering one simple question: When did he find out about the water loss incident?

“The, the, Jeri can get you the timeline of when we did,” he said. Jeri Bustamante is one of the governor’s aides who accompanied him to the site.

Scott’s office later claimed the governor wasn’t informed of this potential environmental disaster until after 8 On Your Side broke the story. His own Department of Environmental Protection knew something was happening for 19 days – and kept the governor in the dark, according to the office.

Graham has closely monitored 8 On Your Side’s reports. She said it doesn’t matter whether the governor knew about the sinkhole and kept it hush-hush, or if DEP hid it from him.

“Both scenarios are appalling,” Graham said. She had already requested records from DEP to find out what the agency knew and when. She has also requested all relevant records from the governor’s office.

Following our reports that 215 million gallons of radioactive water contaminated the aquifer, Mosaic and DEP began testing the wells of nearby homes.

Attorney John Yanchunis represents three neighbors who are now suing Mosaic. “Inexcusable is the proper word here. The fact that the government knew and failed to take care of informing the public, what excuse do they have?  Yanchunis asked. “They have none.”

DEP can no longer be trusted, he said.

Hillsborough County isn’t taking any chances. County officials are monitoring creeks and streams closest to the sinkhole site.

“In an abundance of caution, we would rather be out here sampling and making sure, and protecting our citizens, than waiting to hear from someone else that something is going on,” explained Tom Ash, assistant director of Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission’s Water Management Division.

Ash said the EPC has tested tributaries each week since they learned about the sinkhole. So far he has seen no indication of contamination.

On Friday Mosaic informed 8 On Your Side testing will continue in the future on neighbors’ wells.

“We hope to have those details soon but right now the focus remains on meeting all the initial requests for testing,” Mosaic spokesperson Jackie Barron wrote in an email. Jackie Barron is a former News Channel 8 reporter.

According to Mosaic’s website, 741 wells are scheduled to be tested. The company doing the analysis says, so far, all test results show the samples taken from wells have met federal drinking water standards.

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