Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida

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Ask Gov. DeSantis to Address Phosphate Problems

CBD logo In: Ask Gov. DeSantis to Address Phosphate Problems | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River

OSFR has signed on to the following letter/petition and we encourage  all our readers to do so.  The phosphate industry destroys the earth and the living things in it, and we are not about to run out of phosphate.  We do not need to mine in Florida for phosphate.

We applaud the work against phosphate that the Center for Biological Diversity does.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-



Petition to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

We, the undersigned Floridians, urge you to take swift action to address historic, ongoing and future harm caused by phosphate mining and phosphogypsum storage in Florida.


We appreciate your efforts to implement major reforms to ensure the protection of Florida’s environment and water quality with Executive Order 19-12, Achieving More Now for Florida’s Environment.[1]


Relevant to your executive order, phosphate mining and phosphogypsum, the byproduct of processing phosphate rock, are among the greatest threats to Florida’s surface water, drinking water and environment at large, and they require immediate action.


Already more than 430,000 acres of wetlands, streams and habitat in Florida have been mined for phosphate,[2] and more than 100,000 additional acres are planned for mining in the near future.[3] The majority of the phosphate rock mined in Florida is processed at nearby fertilizer plants where the acidic, radioactive byproduct — phosphogypsum — is stored in mountainous stacks hundreds of acres wide and hundreds of feet tall.[4]


Five tons of phosphogypsum are created for every one ton of fertilizer produced. And more than 1 billion tons of this radioactive phosphogypsum waste are stored in 25 stacks throughout Florida, perched precariously atop the Floridan aquifer and adjacent to waterways. These gypstacks have a history of failures and releases, and the risk of future accidents will only increase as the stacks expand.[5]


Because of the ongoing and future potential harms from phosphate mining and phosphogypsum storage, we ask that you immediately take the following actions:


LIMIT THE USE of fertilizers and pesticides in your environment. Remember that because of our Karst Topography, chemicals used on your lawn and garden can drain quickly into our aquifer and then flow back up into our springs and rivers. Click here for more ideas.
  1. Comprehensively map the portions of the Floridan aquifer impacted by the 25 gypstacks.


Comprehensive mapping of the Floridan aquifer system is necessary to determine if recovery wells are actually capable of capturing released phosphogypsum and process water.[6] We respectfully request you create a study commission to map the portions of the Floridan aquifer that are impacted by the 25 phosphogypsum stacks.

  1. Study the environmental and human health effects of phosphate mines and gypstacks.

In addition to being radioactive and acidic, phosphogypsum and process water contain toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury.[7] Worse yet, phosphogypsum stacks are disproportionately located in low-income communities, with 27 percent living below the poverty line,[8] yet the epidemiological consequences of the stacks remain unstudied. Furthermore, land mined for phosphate exhibits higher radioactivity at the surface than it did before mining, with at least one partially reclaimed site containing radionuclides that exceed the EPA’s Superfund Chemical Data Matrix Soil Exposure Cancer Risk Screening Concentration ingestion value.[9] Many Floridians live in homes constructed on reclaimed land, and several reclaimed sites are open to the public. We respectfully request you convene a task force to study the environmental and human health effects of the phosphogypsum stacks and phosphate mines by way of epidemiological study and comprehensive health-risk analysis.


  1. Direct the Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force to study the possible contribution of phosphate mining and gypstacks to red tide.


The degradation of the Peace River watershed, where phosphate mining has ocurred on more than 200,000 acres, has been well documented.[10] The river empties into the Charlotte Harbor estuary and is the site of ever-worsening red-tide blooms.[11] The potential impacts of phosphate mining and phosphogypsum stacks on red tide remain unstudied. We respectfully ask you to instruct the newly reinstated Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force to study these impacts.


  1. Require full restoration of pre-1975 mined lands and existing mines.

Reclamation of lands mined prior to July 1, 1975 is not currently required,[12] and there are 149,130 acres of such “nonmandatory” lands. There are 18,516 acres of nonmandatory lands previously identified as eligible for reclamation funding under the Nonmandatory Lands Reclamation Program that remain unreclaimed and without a reclamation contract.[13] In addition, less than half of the 258,576 acres of lands mined or disturbed between July 1, 1975 and Dec. 31, 2015 have been released from further reclamation obligations.[14] Even lands that are reclaimed have been shown to have considerably inferior agricultural uses,[15] as well as reduced ecosystem function and biodiversity, when compared to non-mined lands.[16] We respectfully request you instruct the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to (1) prohibit variances from the requirements of F.S. 379.209 regarding timing of reclamation; (2) initiate rulemaking on improving reclamation standards provided by Chapter 62C-16, F.A.C. to approximate restoration; and (3) initiate rulemaking applicable to future permitting requiring (a) a showing that the applicant is meeting its existing reclamation obligations, and (b) a commitment to reclaim a certain percentage of unreclaimed nonmandatory lands.

  1. Halt all additional permitting for phosphate mining, phosphogypsum stacks and expansions.


We respectfully request that until such studies and rulemakings are complete, you direct the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to not authorize any new or modified (1) Environmental Resource Permits for phosphate mines under Chapter 62-330, F.A.C.; or (2) phosphogypsum-stack construction permits under Chapter 62-673, F.A.C.


Sign the Petition >




[3] U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 2013. Areawide Environmental Impact Statement, 2-24.

[4] 40 C.F.R. § 61.206.

[5] U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2013, Areawide Environmental Impact Statement at 3-95;;;;;

[6] Such mapping is technologically feasible. See Martin, Jonathan B. and Dean, Randolph W. 2001. Exchange of water between conduits and matrix in the Floridan aquifer. Chemical Geology 179 2001 145–165.

[7] In unlined stack systems, these and other constituents have been shown to seep into underlying aquifers. Miller, R.L. and H. Sutcliff. 1984. Effects of Three Phosphate Industrial Sites on Ground-water Quality in Central Florida, 1979 to 1980, U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Investigations Report 83-4256 at 169.

[8] Compared to 16.8 percent in communities without phosphogypsum stacks. Phosphogypsum Stacks and Environmental Justice,

[9] EPA, 2001. Draft Expanded Site Inspection Report, Tenoroc Mine.

[10] Metz, P.A. and B.R. Lewelling. 2009. Hydrologic Conditions that Influence Streamflow Losses in a Karst Region of the Upper Peace River, Polk County, Florida: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2009-5140, 82 p.; Champeau, T. 1990. Ichthyofaunal Evaluation of the Peace River, Florida: Florida Scientist, 53(4), 302-311; Lewelling, B.R., A.B. Tihansky, and J.L. Kindinger. 1998. Assessment of the Hydraulic Connection Between Ground Water and the Peace River, West-Central Florida: U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Investigations Report 97-4211, 102 p.

[11] Brand, L. E. and A. Compton, A. 2007. Long-term increase in Karenia brevis abundance along the Southwest Florida Coast. Harmful algae, 6(2), 232-252.; See also,

[12] § 211.32, Fla. Stat.


[14] As of December 31, 2015.

[15] Central Florida Regional Planning Council. 2002. Land Use Suitability Index for Use in Hardee County.

[16] McCoy, E.D. and H.R. Mushinsky. 2002. Measuring the Success of Wildlife Community Restoration. Ecology Applications 12(6): 1861-1871.

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1 Comment

  1. Stop the phosphate mining, Yes, we may need and use fertilizers but if our water is contaminated all the fertilizer in the world will not save us if contaminated water is used on food crops.

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