Mosaic continuing 'apology tour' for hiding public health threat

Executives to meet with Hillsborough Commissioners
Posted at 6:21 AM, Sep 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-21 12:30:10-04

Mosaic executives admitted it screwed up in the handling of a massive sinkhole that drained millions of gallons of radioactive water into to the aquifer.

Tuesday morning, two of the company’s executives took responsibility for not notifying the public sooner of the crisis.

“I deeply regret and apologize that I didn’t come forward and communicate with them sooner. Any explanation that I could provide as to why we didn’t do that, to me would ring hollow,” said Walter Precourt, Mosaic Senior Vice President of Phosphates, to the Polk County Commissioners.

The Mosaic executives have scheduled a similar meeting with the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners, and are expected to deliver a similar apology.

RELATED | Water quality testing begins near Mosaic sinkhole

Precourt, along with another executive, Herschel Morris, said they should have told surrounding neighbors immediately when the sinkhole opened up and sent an estimated 215-million gallons of toxic water into the area's aquifer.

It left people like James Branch in the dark for weeks.

“I accept their apology, but i definitely want to get my water checked,” he said.

Mosaic isn’t the only one who could have sounded the alarm to neighbors.

County leaders, and Polk County Commissioners themselves, knew of the station at Mosaic.

According to e-mails obtained by ABC Action News, Mosaic notified the county manager on August 29th, and commissioners were notified by e-mail on September 6th.

“What could we have told them three weeks ago? We had no idea what to tell them,” said Commissioner John Hall about the decision not to tell his constituents.

Commissioners said they didn’t know it was this serious.

Others thought it was the Florida DEP’s responsibility to alert people nearby.

“Who does it fall on? Well, county commissioners we should take responsibility. We should have done a press release,” said Commissioner Melony Bell.

The good news, according to Mosaic, monitoring wells around the sinkhole show their efforts to pump out contaminated water have been successful so far.

The company is offering bottled water and courtesy water tests to people with private wells in the area to ease concern.

But they’re still fighting that looming trust issue.

“I will be doing it. Privately,” Branch said of the water test. “If it does cost me, I’ll pay for it. I want an outside source to check my water.”

Visit Mosaic's website for frequent updates on the sinkhole.