By Walt Precourt
Senior Vice President
Mosaic’s Phosphates Business Unit
Earlier this week, I addressed the Polk County Board of County Commissioners on the recent sinkhole and water loss incident at our New Wales production facility, and believe the updates and sentiments that I shared are pertinent to the entire west-central Florida community.
The most important thing for the community to know is that on behalf of Mosaic, I would like to express our sincere regret that the sinkhole and associated loss of water on our property have caused concerns for the community. We live, work and raise our families here too, so we take our responsibility to protect the public and the environment very seriously.
The health and safety of our 4,000 employees and our local communities is paramount across all of our work at Mosaic. When we realized we had major water loss at the gypsum stack on Aug. 28, we quickly notified the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Polk County.
Using test wells surrounding our facility, we immediately increased the frequency of water quality monitoring and took steps to remove as much water as possible from the leaking process pond. On September 6, water dramatically receded, exposing the sinkhole that we see today. We have been operating a recovery well to remove this water from the aquifer. We are committed to recovering this water from the aquifer, and preventing offsite impacts. To date, we have seen no such impacts.
Our Mosaic team continues to work around the clock to review the situation. We continue to work closely and constructively with state environmental regulators. FDEP is being updated daily and its representatives have been on site regularly, providing us with diligent oversight and assistance in rectifying this situation.
Understandably some of our neighbors who live near the New Wales facility are concerned about water coming from their wells. We have reached out to our neighbors and are offering to pay for the cost of testing their wells, as well as provide bottled water to allay their concerns until their well tests are complete. We want our neighbors to not just be safe, but to have peace of mind.
We continue to analyze the situation, and our response to it, and we realize we could have done a better job in providing timely information to our neighbors and the broader community. I regret and apologize for not providing information sooner, and am committed to providing regular updates to the public as we move forward. As new information is available, we will be posting it on our website, and providing continued updates to regulators, the press, our local community and most importantly our neighbors.
Mosaic has a long history of working closely with our neighbors and the communities where we operate, and we will work hard to honor our commitment to them now and in the future.