Gov. Rick Scott visited the Polk County phosphate manufacturing plant on Tuesday, where a sinkhole has spilled contaminated water into the Florida aquifer. The sinkhole formed under a phosphogypsum stack at Mosaic’s New Wales manufacturing plant south of Lakeland.
Scott said more wells were being created on neighboring acreage to track the affected water.
"We have got to constantly monitor this so it doesn't impact water quality,” Scott said to reporters after he was briefed by company and environmental officials.
The corporate fertilizer giant Mosaic told Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection about the spill within 24 hours after it happened on August 27. But It took several weeks for nearby residents to learn of the contamination. Governor Scott blamed outdated environmental regulations for the delay.
"We clearly have a law with regard to public notification that didn't make sense,” he said. “There's no common sense in this. When we have pollution, whether it's the company, whether it’s the city, whether it's the county, we have to notify people. It's the right thing to do."
Current law required that the public be notified only when the polluted water moved off-site, which it had not done. Scott has put in place an emergency rule that directs the public to be notified within 24 hours.
Scott said penalties for polluters would also be increased. He said the Department of Environmental Protection continues its investigation into Mosaic. The company is providing free well tests and bottled water to nearby residents upon request. Mosaic produces about 75 percent of the country's phosphate, a critical plant nutrient.