8 INVESTIGATES: Mosaic to face heavy fines if sinkhole not repaired properly

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced a consent order Monday with Mosaic because of the sinkhole that released more than 200 million gallons of toxic, radioactive water into the ground.

WFLA News Channel 8 broke the story about the sinkhole on Sept. 15. The agreement means heavy fines if the company fails to meet its promises of remediation. Mosaic must also put up $40 million to ensure it carries through with the remediation at its New Wales facility, near Mulberry.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection “will hold Mosaic accountable for repairing the sinkhole, recovering all discharged process water, providing continued assurances that no off-site impacts have occurred and, if any off-site impacts do occur, ensuring that Mosaic rehabilitates the impacts,” DEP Secretary Jon Steverson said in a written statement. “If the company does not follow the entire order, they will be fined up to $10,000 per day.”

On Tuesday Steverson explained the agreement to Governor Rick Scott and his cabinet. “It’s an enforcement mechanism. We need to enforce it, and I’m confident the DEP will enforce it. If there’s a violation we have the ability to fine them,” he said.

The hole opened up in August, but the public did not know about it until WFLA News Channel 8 broke the story. Steverson said he regretted not informing the public sooner. “Absolutely, our staff is following an outdated law,” he said.

Mosaic released a statement from its senior vice president, Walt Precourt. The statement reads:

“Ensuring the safety of our community and employees, and the proper management of environmental resources, continues to be our top priority as we remediate the sinkhole. From the beginning, Mosaic has been committed to keeping the water from the sinkhole onsite with no community impacts, and we continue to fulfill that commitment.”

The Consent Order requires Mosaic to:

  • Implement a corrective action and grouting plan to permanently seal the sinkhole and verify the long-term effectiveness of the repair work.
  • Operate a recovery well system to continue capturing impacted groundwater from the Floridan Aquifer and prevent any migration of process water away from the site.
  • Install a new standby recovery well to be activated if the primary recovery well becomes inoperable or the enhanced monitoring program indicates that recovery operations need to be expanded to ensure the complete on-site capture of the process water.
  • Implement an enhanced on-site monitoring program to monitor the success of the recovery well system and verify no off-site transport of the process water. This includes more frequent monitoring and the installation of additional monitoring wells.
  • Implement a comprehensive off-site monitoring program at least through December 2018 to ensure that groundwater and private drinking water wells are monitored to verify that residents continue to have a safe source of drinking water.
  • Remediate or provide alternative source of drinking water if off-site wells are affected by the process water.
  • Perform a Hydrogeological and Geotechnical Site Investigation to evaluate the potential for any additional subsurface anomalies at the active phosphogypsum stack system at the New Wales site.
  • Perform Additional Hydrogeological and Geotechnical Site Investigations to evaluate the subsurface conditions at the other three active Mosaic phosphogypsum stacks located near Bartow, Riverview and Plant City, Florida.
  • Provide at least $40 million in financial assurance for the performance of the on-site corrective actions, off-site monitoring, and any potential off-site rehabilitation. Mosaic must increase the financial assurance if cost estimates for the actions increase.

Mosaic officials recently released details about the size of the sinkhole, which ranges from 40 feet to 150 feet in diameter at its widest point, and is approximately 220 feet deep from the top of the gypstack. Mosaic officials said they are still working to determine the overall depth before they can begin remediation efforts to plug the hole. They said they expect to start pouring a concrete-type mixture into the sinkhole by December.

See the Consent Order sent to Mosaic



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