Gwen Graham again slams Rick Scott on Mosaic spill

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Gwen Graham is again blasting Governor Rick Scott in regards to the massive sinkhole created at the Mosaic phosphate plant in Polk County last month. The Tallahassee Democratic Representative specifically is challenging the claim made by Scott earlier this week that he wasn’t aware about the 215 millions of contaminated water going into the Florida aquifer of weeks after the incident.

“I don’t know which is worse. Either Governor Rick Scott knew about the sinkhole and didn’t inform the public, or leadership at the Department of Environmental Protection is so irresponsible they didn’t alert the governor to a potential public health disaster,” Graham said in a statement. “Both scenarios are appalling, and the people of Florida deserve full accountability.”

The sinkhole opened up on Aug. 27, pouring out an estimated 215 million gallons of water from one of the processing plant’s gypsum stacks. It took three weeks for the public to learn about incident. Scott’s office said he learned about it on September 16. WFLA-TV NewsChannel 8 in Tampa has reported that for 19 days neither Mosaic nor the Florida Department of Environmental protection alerted neighbors to the potential threat this sinkhole posed to their wells.

Last week Graham issued a public information request to the Department of Environmental Protection, calling on the agency to turn over all electronic communication relating to the toxic sinkhole. It came after what she said made “repeated requests” for more information about when the agency informed the public of the massive sinkhole, originally estimated to be 45-foot-wide and 300-foot deep. However, an official with Mosaic said earlier this week that it could actually have gone much deeper.

Scott was asked this week if the DEP had kept him in the dark, and if so, was he going to fire Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Jon Steverson.

Graham notes in her statement that Stevenson was “handpicked” by Governor Scott and reported to be the only person he “felt was worthy of an interview.”

The DEP has maintained that the closest drinking water wells are three miles from the sinkhole site and that there is no indication of a threat to those wells.

Graham is a first-term Democrat elected in November of 2014. She is not running for reelection this fall, but has not discouraged talk about a run for Governor in 2018.

FloridaPolitics has contacted the governor’s office 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 mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.