Mulberry, FL -- Lots of people living near Mosaic were still upset that it took the company so long to let them know about the contamination from a sinkhole that opened under a gypsum stack at the fertilizer plant in late August.
Even though Mosaic had now apologized for the delay, it may take more than that to ease some people’s anger.
A class-action lawsuit is now being filed.
The issue was on the menu Friday at Carol's Cafe in Mulberry, not far from Mosaic's New Wales fertilizer plant.
The daily lunch special was country fried steak. But the talk was all about the water.
“I would've done ice water. But I just thought -- real quick I go -- I will do the decaf coffee,” said customer Roni Fiorina, a regular at Carol’s.
More than 200 million gallons of contaminated water got sucked down into the aquifer when the sinkhole opened.
Mosaic thinks it stopped the phosphates and radioactive contaminants by vigorously pumping the water before it could spread into nearby residential water wells.
The company apologized this week for not alerting the public sooner.
“I know they say by law they didn't have to notify everybody, but just had a common decency they should've at least let everybody know,” said Mike George sitting down to a plate of fish and chips.
Fiorina was more forgiving. “I think they knew nothing about that this was going to happen. So I don't think they're at fault,” she said.
The high-powered law firm Morgan and Morgan along with a New York-based firm are filing a class-action lawsuit. Those with standing, they say would include anyone on well water within five miles of the New Wales plant.
Some though, may not have the appetite for litigation. Since they not only live near Mosaic, they work there.
“And you know that's it supports them and their family. So I think if push comes to shove they might stick with the company. I really do,” said customer Rosa Scheetz.
Meanwhile, for the first time since that massive sinkhole opened late last month, the Environmental Protection Agency was on site Friday observing the stack where sinkhole occurred, water sampling, and talking about the location of four more monitoring wells that Mosaic will install.
Private well sampling in residential neighborhoods continued to come back negative, but the company performing those tests warned that the results are only partially complete. Chemicals are not appearing in unusual amounts, but the radioactivity that may have leaked will take more time to detect – or not.
“There are many, many reports published and available concerning what is the quality of the water and Eastern Hills tomorrow and Western pole County. And so we're comparing the Mosaic results to those, and they don't look out of line,” said Gary Uebelhoer, vice president at Environmental Consulting and Technology.
The company has been contracted by Mosaic to test private water wells miles from the facility.
“We don't have any radioactivity results back yet, because the EPA method for those analyses requires about a week to complete,” said Uebelhoer.
The EPA says the Florida Department of Environmental protection will continue to be the lead agency.
Contaminants from the sinkhole, they say, move through the aquifer slowly. So, monitoring may need to take place for months, perhaps even years.
Many who live in and around Mulberry consider Mosaic to be a good corporate neighbor. It’s why they were disappointed by the delay. But it’s also why they believe the company will do what's right once it's clear what that is.
In the meantime, at Carol’s Café, you’ll find customers like Debbie George., passing on the water.
“I just got to have my sweet tea, I guess,” said George.
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