Target 8: Hillsborough ramps up water testing for Mosaic contaminants

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Target 8 investigation is prompting Hillsborough County to ramp up water testing near the Mosaic plant just across the county line.

Hillsborough County’s Environmental Protection Commission was ready to scale back on testing creeks and streams for traces of contamination after the massive water leak at Mosaic’s fertilizer plant in Mulberry. Following a Target 8 report which revealed Mosaic is diluting contaminated water it recovered from a sinkhole leak beneath a gypsum stack, then discharging into the Alafia River, the county is ramping up its testing.

Hillsborough County dispatched a crew to once again sample water in creeks and streams leading from Mosaic’s New Wales plant to the Alafia Rver.

8 On Your Side’s report blindsided the Environmental Protection Commission. It believed the water Mosaic recovered would be used at the New Wales fertilizer plant.

“The intention is to utilize it in the process,” Mosaic’s Neil Beckingham said. The company anticipates recovering more of the processed water the sinkhole swallowed.  Mosaic is building a treatment plant to process water it expects will have more contamination.

“The water treatment plant that we’re building, it’s many millions of dollars, a large treatment plant. It takes time to build and commission and so we’re in that process now,” Beckingham said.

That means discharging some into the Alafia River system, a source of drinking water for eastern Hillsborough County. Mosaic contends the water it is discharging meets stringent federal clean water standards. While it is the contaminated water recovered from the sinkhole leak, Mosaic insists it is not contaminated by the time it reaches the Alafia.

This environmental nightmare began in August. A sinkhole opened beneath a gypsum stack at the New Wales plant. That caused 215 million gallons of radioactive contaminated water to gush into the aquifer, posing a threat to neighboring wells.

Mosaic notified the state. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection kept it quiet for weeks. Target 8 exposed the sinkhole and the state’s lack of transparency.

“Transparency is key,” Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White told Mosaic officials at a Thursday meeting.

Mosaic updated the county on its ground water monitoring and plans to fill the sinkhole. “Notably absent from this presentation are officials from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection,” White said.

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