The fear of the unknown is real and that’s especially true when what’s
unknown could affect the health and safety of your family. The
citizens of Polk and Hillsborough Counties experienced this firsthand
in September when a sinkhole opened up under a gypsum stack releasing
millions of gallons of unknown contaminants into the Floridan aquifer.
It took weeks for information about the sinkhole to reach us and, in
the absence of communication from the county or state, rumors ran
rampant. People were afraid of what the future might bring.
Like many of you I heard tales about widespread radiation,
contaminated water, sick children and pets, and potential of other
sinkholes opening up across the area. It’s been difficult to separate
the facts from fiction. At the top of everyone’s mind were fears that
the sinkhole incident might create long-term health and safety effects
for our community.
Recently, all that changed when the Mosaic hosted a town hall meeting
in Lithia at the Welcome Baptist Church. Representatives from Mosaic
were there to speak with the community one on one and share updates
and information on their efforts related to the sinkhole. We heard
directly about ongoing water testing and monitoring programs, bottled
water services that were provided to residents, along with remediation
efforts at the sinkhole site.
We were informed that all contaminated water released as a result of
the sinkhole has been contained to Mosaic’s property and has not
drained into our drinking water. In fact, Mosaic has been proactively
testing the quality of our water since the sinkhole occurred to ensure
it is safe to drink and remains unaffected. To date, Mosaic has
provided free water testing of more than 1,200 private wells, all of
which confirmed that our drinking water has not been contaminated.
Hillsborough County officials have done their own water testing that
has further confirmed that the area’s water is safe.
We also heard about the bottled water service that Mosaic has been
providing to the residents within four miles of the New Wales facility
while they have been waiting to have their wells tested. They have
even been providing water to the families whose drinking water tests
showed abnormalities that are not associated at all with the sinkhole.
All of this information was a welcome relief to me - and surely for
others in the community as well. While there has certainly been a lot
of misinformation spread far and wide by people from outside the
community, the truth remains the same - Mosaic and the county
officials from both Hillsborough and Polk seem firmly committed to
keeping the water safe. Rest assured, the citizens intend to hold them
accountable to that commitment.
Mosaic has attempted to take accountability for its actions and come
into the community to look us directly in the eyes and tell us exactly
what they are doing to make things right. That’s not something you
always see happen in poor rural communities. Because of the unknown in
situations like this transparency is very important and Mosaic has
been in the community available to provide information and to answer
As we heard at the meeting, Mosaic has been communicating directly
with the residents surrounding the New Wales facility by mail, as well
as posting regular updates both on their website and social media. I
encourage Mosaic to continue to make the community aware of the safe
water conditions; to continue its bottled water service, for those
that may need it, until water testing is complete; and to continue to
provide information regarding the incident and actions that are being
taken to resolve the issue. This type of commitment can go a long way
to making our community feel more at ease.
Robin Lockett, Community Correspondent