A Mosaic representative who was scheduled to discuss the recent sinkhole that emptied one of the ponds at one of the gypsum stacks at the corporation’s New Wales plant south of Mulberry backed out just hours before the planned presentation tonight.
From what I’ve been able to piece together, Mosaic officials were wary of being ambushed by TV crews who had inquired about the presentation to our Ancient Islands Sierra Group at Circle B Bar Reserve.
The cancellation perplexed local Sierra leaders, who pointed out this is an international company that is normally pretty sophisticated in handling situations like this.
Mosaic had been invited following a detailed presentation its staff made at a Sierra briefing earlier this year in Sarasota.
Sierra members have been interested in hearing more about whether the presence of these waste stacks that store large amounts of acidic water pose an unusual sinkhole risk when they are located at the edge of an area in Florida where sinkholes are more likely to occur.
When the stack was undergoing zoning review by Polk County in 2015, Mosaic’s consultant said his analysis concluded there was little chance of a repeat of the sinkhole that occurred in 1994 at another stack at the plant. The same consultant had argued against installing a liner in the older stack when it underwent zoning review decades ago.
The sinkhole that opened last summer sparked concerns about the safety of drinking water at private wells in the area. Tests so far have not shown any contamination attributable to the sinkhole in any wells outside of the New Wales plant property.
Following sinkholes company workers typically activate pumps to draw water from the aquifer and recirculate it into the plant to keep the plume contained. The same process was followed after the much larger 1994 sinkhole.
Meanwhile, Sierra members would still like to hear what Mosaic officials have to say about the recent incident, which also triggered a call for a new state law to require public notification when incidents of this magnitude occur.
That change will be discussed in the 2017 legislative session, which convenes in March.