Mosaic scales back free water testing program and will stop offering bottled water

MULBERRY, Fla. - The company that is still trying to plug the massive, radioactive sinkhole in Mulberry is making some changes in how it deals with its neighbors.

Mosaic announced this week it is done handing out free bottled water to anyone whose water tests come back clean.

The company also decided to pull back its water testing program and limit it to only people within a four mile radius of the sinkhole.

“It’s aggravating to know whether it’s satisfactory or not,” said Jennifer Lester, who lives beyond the four mile radius.

She is among the hundred of Mosaic neighbors who received a letter late this week from Mosaic notifying them that they will no longer receive free bottled water.

“It says my water is fine and that they don’t want to help me anymore,” she said.

Mosaic has gone through several stages in this crisis: at first, officials kept it a secret for three weeks, then they fessed up and apologized and offered water and testing to pretty much anyone who asked.

Now they are scaling back that program to the minimum set out by the consent order from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection back in October.

It requires — at a minimum — for the company to test wells within a four mile radius at least four times next year and another two times in 2018.

Since Mosaic’s New Wales facility is surrounded by mostly vacant land, the four mile radius only touches less than 200 properties. That’s under 20-percent of the wells that they’ve tested so far.

“We’ll just have to hope for the best,” Lester said.

The testing company hired by Mosaic originally found abnormal radioactive levels, but later came back and said hers is fine.

“I’m always getting different numbers,” she said.

She is concerned about her family’s health since she’ll never get a free test again.

Meanwhile, Mosaic officials maintain that the drinking water around the facility is safe and will continue to be safe to drink since recovery wells are adequately pumping the contaminating water out of the aquifer.

An independent expert for the University of South Florida told ABC Action News by phone that the four mile radius “seems reasonable” since there’s been no sign of radioactive waste connected to the spill at other wells.

But some may argue it’s too early to tell.

Late Friday, a DEP spokesperson told ABC Action News that anyone beyond the four mile radius can contact the agency if they have questions or concerns and that the agency “will try to work with them if it’s deemed necessary."

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