MULBERRY, Fla. — There could be another problem at Mosaic's New Wales facility in Mulberry.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is investigating a possible tear in a liner that contains processed water underneath one of the gypsum stacks. The property has a history of issues, including a massive sinkhole that opened in 2016 allowing more than 200 million gallons of contaminated water to seep into Florida’s aquifer.
The Florida DEP issued a pollution notice dated March 24.
The letter says, in part, that a review of site monitoring data and results of recent investigative drilling “…are indicative of a potential liner tear at the facility’s active south phosphogypsum stack, which could result in an indeterminate volume of process water released to the environment.”
“There is no confirmation of a liner tear. There’s no confirmation of any kind of void or cavity,” Mosaic Spokesperson Jackie Barron said. “We continue to investigate. And as soon as we know, they’ll know.”
Barron says at this point, they haven’t confirmed anything.
“We know that there’s been no change in the water level in the holding pond at the top of the stack. There’s a recovery well that has been in existence since 2016 that holds water to it, it has shown no impact, no sign of any processed water making its way to the recovery well,” Barron said. “The recirculation ditches have shown no change of water level. So, we know there’s no process water, we believe, leaving the stack at this time.”
So, what led the sensors to indicate a possible tear in the liner?
“We’re going to go in, do some exploratory drilling and investigate to find out more,” Barron said. “And that’s where we are.”
Mosaic installed a high-tech network of sensors and underground monitors at the New Wales facility after a disastrous incident in 2016. That’s when a massive sinkhole opened under the stack allowing more than 200 million gallons to escape into the aquifer.
It’s those sensors that recently detected what they’re calling “non routine subsurface acoustics” leading them to investigate whether there’s been a breach.
“I would think it would be fair to say at least a couple of weeks before we have what we hope to be more concrete information,” Barron said.
Mosaic says if there is a tear, the issue would be from process water that’s already been absorbed into the gypsum, not the holding pond that sits on top of the stack. And then there should be no offsite impact to groundwater because their recovery well system is still operating.
In the meantime, in addition to the drill tests, the company has brought in a third party to review their daily inspections and has reduced the volume of water that sits atop the stack to reduce pressure as a precaution.