Environmentalists believe state ignored warning signs of sinkhole under Mulberry gypsum stack

The Mosaic sinkhole on Feb. 3, 2017.

BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) – A group of environmentalists believe the state of Florida failed to act to prevent a sinkhole from draining radioactive water into the Floridan aquifer.

The activists said there were warning signs, but the state ignored them, so they’re asking Governor Rick Scott to intervene.

Last year, fear ripped through the region after a sinkhole opened underneath a gypsum stack in Mulberry. Millions of gallons of contaminated water seeped into the aquifer. Nearby residents like Kristie Simpson said they’re afraid to use their own well water.

“In the middle of the shower, I am literally retching and gagging,” said Simpson.

Hydrologist Donald Rice believes there were warning signs of this crisis. The retired expert said data shows there was a sharp spike in the water levels of the aquifer, beneath a nearby stack one year before the sinkhole.

“This is a warning sign. When you see water levels rise 40 feet, that’s like, red light, danger, hey, something’s going on, something bad. Let’s find out what it is, and they didn’t,” said Rice.

Rice said the Florida Department of Environmental Protection should’ve shut down the facility to investigate the problem. The FDEP and Mosaic beg to differ.

“I don’t think they did their diligence on evaluating the data, I think they chose some data they thought could carry a message and ran with it, whether or not that message was correct,” said Mosaic Senior Director, Environmental and Phosphate Projects David Jellerson.

FDEP argues there was some work being done on the gypsum stack and the water level spike had absolutely nothing to do with the sinkhole a mile away.

“It’s completely baseless and without merit,” said Jellerson.

The hydrologist said even if this anomaly was under another stack, it could’ve still played a role in the sinkhole.

“I don’t know if the sinkhole could’ve been prevented, but the impact from the sinkhole could’ve been avoided,” said Rice.

The environmentalists sent a letter to Governor Scott, hoping for an investigation into whether FDEP could’ve done more.

FDEP says there are numerous monitors in place to study the water levels of the aquifer, looking for problems and nothing was seen out of the ordinary prior to the sinkhole. They post data on their website daily and they’re willing to answer any questions people have about the incident.

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