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Environmental group targets Dana Young in wake of Mosaic sinkhole incident

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A day after an official with Mosaic Fertilizer expressed regret for sitting on information for weeks about contamination leaking into the Floridan Aquifer without informing the general public at their Mulberry site, an environmental group is attempting to connect Republican state Representative Dana Young to the phosphate giant.

Polk County officials say 215 million gallons of radioactive water sitting in a containment pool were swallowed and dumped into the Floridan Aquifer from a massive sinkhole on August 27. While Mosaic notified the Florida Department of Environmental Protection the next day, it didn’t inform the local community for over a week.

“I deeply regret and apologize that I didn’t come forward and communicate with them sooner. Any explanation that I could provide as to why we didn’t do that, to me would ring hollow,” said Walter Precourt, Mosaic Senior Vice President of Phosphates, to the Polk County Commissioners on Tuesday.

For three weeks, the Dept. of Environmental Protection and Mosaic communicated back and forth – but not with the citizens who use well-water in the area, though testing has shown that the water has not migrated past the Mosaic property.

Now Florida Conservation Voters is attempting to tie a local Republican to Mosaic’s woes. The group says that Mosaic’s lack of immediate response follows a trend “where special interests pollute at will while everyday Floridians pay the price.” And they say that happens because state lawmakers don’t hold them accountable, referring to lawmakers like Young, who has represented Hillsborough County in Florida’s House District 60 since 2010.

Young is currently running for the State Senate District 18 seat against Democrat Bob Buesing, who FCV has already endorsed. In addition to the campaign contributions that Young has received from Mosaic and the Florida Phosphate Council, the group also refers in its press release to a fundraiser in South Tampa co-hosted by Mosaic’s Vice President of Public Affairs last December.

“Rep. Dana Young’s environmental record is as dirty as her campaign contributions,” said Jonathan Webber, Deputy Director of Florida Conservation Voters. “Her cozy relationship with big polluters like Mosaic shows how out of touch she is with the everyday needs of Tampa’s working families.”

The group also criticizes her Young by citing her vote to take away local authority to enact strong fertilizer restrictions, as well as supporting a fracking bill in the last Legislative session.

“Elections have consequences,” said Aliki Moncrief, Executive Director of Florida Conservation Voters. “So long as we have politicians like Dana Young in office serving polluters, we cannot trust that our drinking water is safe for Florida families.”

Sarah Bascom, a spokeswoman for the Young campaign, blasted the FCV’s press release, calling it “nothing more than a political stunt covered in ‘pro-environmental’ packaging.”

“To tie the support of a company to a candidate, or any alleged action or inaction by that company, is dirty politics at its worst,” Bascom said in an email sent to FloridaPolitics. “In fact, had the Florida Conservation Voters bothered to contact Dana Young and ask her about this issue directly, instead of through this veiled media stunt, they would have found out that Representative Young has had extensive conversations with the Secretary of the DEP and senior members of his staff to determine what remediation efforts are underway, what is being done in regard to surrounding properties and their water wells, as well as asking what enforcement actions may be taken by DEP and other permitting agencies, such as the EPA.”

Bascom also accuses Florida Conservation Voters of “distorting” Young’s record on the environment.

“Dana Young opposes fracking, offshore and onshore drilling, and has worked tirelessly on water issues during her entire time in the legislature,” she said, adding, “The only cozy relationship here is between the Florida Conservation Voters and her opponent, Bob Buesing, who no doubt encouraged this media stunt void of facts and does nothing to actually help rectify the problem.”

Buesing was unavailable for comment.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at [email protected]

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