Mosaic Controversy

dead fish2 In: Mosaic Controversy | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida

The following article from the Englewood Sun was sent to me via email.  Sorry I have no link to the original.

Despite Mosaic’s claims, the fact remains that phosphate mining destroys wildlife.  The following statement by the Army Corps of Engineers in this article is a totally untrue. (and grammatically confusing)

Downstream monitoring of aquatic communities has not documented clear cause and effect relationships between mine discharges and biological responses indicating indirect water quality effects have not been substantive,” the corps’ study states.

The 1997 discharge into South Prong Creek- Alafia River, and the 2004 gypstack discharge into Hillsborough Bay are well documented.  Millions of aquatic animals were killed.

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


Done in Polk, company’s push to DeSoto draws controversy
By ANDREA PRAEGITZER
STAFF WRITER
A lead ecologist for Mosaic in Florida said he has the hardest job with the mining and manufacturing company that employs thousands. “We take everything that’s been turned upside down and put it back,” said Bill Brammell.
Despite the challenges, he said he feels good about how Mosaic restores the environment after mining phosphate used to make fertilizer that is sold to grow food across the globe.
From streams and trees to wildlife and wetlands, nature is restored after it is! torn up for that phosphate, according to Brammell and his company.
Mosaic finished mining Polk County in 2014 and is moving south down the Bone Valley — where the finite resource of phosphate runs heavy below the ground.
The company gave the Sun a tour of some mining operations in Hardee County this month. Mining is now moving to reserves there, and in Manatee County and DeSoto County — which could start in a few years if all permitting and zoning is approved.
Mosaic contends mining for phosphate is “distinct” from what happens next — manufacturing fertilizer.
“As mining moves south, we will continue to utilize our current manufacturing facilities and we have adequate space for storage within our existing manufacturing footprints,” said Mosaic Spokeswoman Jackie B! arron.
Manufacturing footprints can involve piles of waste called “gypstacks” that span hundreds of acres. Mosaic now owns a dozen in Florida — of which three are still active, and under which two sinkholes have opened including one in 1994 and another last year.
Even though no new gypstacks are planned, not everyone thinks the industry should be allowed to mine more.
Science
“We’re putting science to work for generations to come,” Mosaic advertising states.
Permitting for mining takes years and usually spans eight different agencies involving local state and federal government.
And according to one of those permitti! ng agencies, science is also central to its determinations.
“We continue to try to base all of our decisions on the best available science,” said Philip Kloer, spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, after prevailing this month in a lawsuit filed by environmentalists seeking to stop Mosaic’s mining expansion.
There is disagreement, though, about whether the science on mining is comprehensive enough to keep permitting it.
“We should be looking at mining impacts — processing and radioactive waste disposal as a whole,” said Glenn Compton, spokesperson for the ManaSota-88 environmental group, which was a plaintiff on a lawsuit filed in March against government agencies that sought to stop Mosaic’s new mining permits from moving forward. “They’re getting permitting fo! r mining without having to address disposal.”
Based on some science from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — which was one of the agencies sued by environmental groups over Mosaic’s permits — risks reviewed weren’t enough to deny more mining.
“Groundwater quality issues associated with phosphate mining have not been identified,” states an impact study summary from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from 2013.
“Downstream monitoring of aquatic communities has not documented clear cause and effect relationships between mine discharges and biological responses indicating indirect water quality effects have not been substantive,” the corps’ study states.
Groundwater monitoring is not an exact science, according to Compton, who said it’s impossible ! to assure no pollution will take place as a ! result of mining.
Although problems may not be as apparent today, Compton said after a decade or two a different story may be told.
“Charlotte County is downstream from the mining operations,” said Compton. “Drinking water supplies are something all residents in Charlotte County should be concerned about.”
And there is concern — especially for people living closest to mining activity, according to environmental groups.
“The people most impacted by phosphate mining, those who have the misfortune of living near the mines and those who care deeply about the plants and animals destroyed by the mines, are profoundly worried for their futures,” said Jaclyn Lopez, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, which was lead plaintiff on the lawsu! it. “It is extremely disappointing that the court didn’t agree their voices mattered.”
Water releases from mine sites must meet state and federal regulatory standards, according to Mosaic.
Land that has been mined will need centuries to become anything like what it once was, according to another plaintiff on the lawsuit, Suncoast Waterkeeper.
Mining in DeSoto County west of Arcadia is proposed to happen over about 16 years — from 2021 to 2037 — with reclamation work lasting up to an additional six years.
“Streams directly impacted by mining will be reclaimed in a manner that results in channel morphology consistent with natural topographic conditions,” according to the reclamation plan from Mosaic for its proposed DeSoto site. “For some streams, this will result in improveme! nts of existing channel configurations that have been modified by agri! cultural operations.”
And the company’s plan says that after reclamation is done, the site will include additional wetlands and streams.
But as far as what happens on that reclaimed land, Suncoast Waterkeeper Andre Mele said the soil is virtually sterile.
“Very few things grow there,” Mele said.
A study prepared by the Central Florida Regional Planning Council for the Hardee County Board of Commissioners over a decade ago in 2002, pointed to some problems.
“The results of this study indicate that future land use patterns, in particular the ability to support various types of commercial agriculture and urban development, may be substantially altered as a result of large-scale phosphate mining in Hardee County,” the study states.
But according to Mosaic, reclamation has gotten better over the years, and agricultural uses on once mined lands — such as growing sod, for example — have been effective.
“As a result of stronger regulatory requirements and voluntary improvements in our practices, today’s phosphate industry is reclaiming land to higher standards than ever before, and we take pride in getting better at it every day,” information from Mosaic states.
Wildlife such as alligators and birds were seen in parts of active mine sites during the Sun’s recent tour from Mosaic.
According to the company, different species of animals — including thousands of gopher tortoises — were successfully relocated to oth! er suitable habitats.
! Also, for example, Mosaic has said its preservation efforts have helped the Florida Scrub Jay population not only survive, but grow. The company planted over 800,000 trees in 2016.
A study from the Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute [FIPR] from 2008 found hundreds of species of vertebrates were living on reclaimed land in Florida.
According to Mosaic, out of the 198,500 acres that have been mined or disturbed since 1975 — it has satisfied over half of its reclamation obligations so far by releasing 101,400 acres.
And, according to the company it owns or controls over 21,000 ares in Florida that are granted as conservation easements, which “ensures longterm protection of these sensitive lands and waters.”
Gypstacks and jobs
“As long as the industry operates in Florida, gutting our land and stockpiling radioactive waste, we’ll vigilantly monitor the government’s review of those activities,” Lopez said, after a United States District Court judge ruled Dec. 14 in favor of the government’s permitting of Mosaic’s future mining.
But according to information from FIPR — which is part of Florida Polytechnic University, and funded through severance tax dollars paid by the phosphate industry — the level of radium in gypsum is low.
“Phosphogypsum is a waste only because EPA calls it a waste, and everything on Earth is radioactive to some degree,” said Gary Albarelli, director of information programs at FIPR. “The concentration of radium in Flor! ida phosphogypsum is within the range of its concentration in natural ! soils of the Earth. The concentration is also lower than that of the natural Florida phosphate rock used in its production.”
Gypstacks — large piles of phosphogypsum, which is a byproduct of fertilizer production — have become a prominent feature of Florida’s landscape.
A sinkhole last year — for which Mosaic said the cause remains unknown — remains under repair at an estimated cost to the company of $84 million to plug and fix. A class-action lawsuit filed by some residents concerned about water quality living near the sinkhole, was dismissed without any settlement on Mosaic’s part.
“Tests continue to show no off-site impacts,” said Barron about surrounding well sampling.
There’s debate, though, over whether gypstacks — which have mostly been closed, under closure! or idled — are involved in the formation of sinkholes.
“It’s just a matter of time before we see others,” said Compton about sinkholes. “There’s been little thought put into where they would be located.”
A physical scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, Ann Tihansky, told the Sun last year she also didn’t think the latest sinkhole was a surprise.
In 1994, a sinkhole that has been described as “one of the largest of its kind” — by engineers who wrote a 1997 scientific journal article about successfully repairing it — opened under a nearly 200-foottall gypsum stack at the New Wales plant in Mulberry.
In 2016, Mosaic informed regulators it was losing hundreds of millions of gallons of process water in! to the aquifer through another sinkhole under a gypstack at the same pl! ant in Polk County.
Tihansky wrote in a USGS circular about the first sinkhole, which stated increasing weight of the gypsum stack could have facilitated the 1994 sinkhole at the plant.
“Enlargement of cavities by dissolution and erosion combined with the increasing weight of the stack would have facilitated the sinkhole collapse,” the USGS circular on the 1994 sinkhole states.
While the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has rules on gypstack construction to limit environmental impact, Albarelli said, problems do arise.
But, he said, the main problem has to do with acidic process water ponds located atop the stacks.
“Much of central Florida is underlain by karst lime! stone that dissolved slowly with time leading to sinkhole formation,” said Albarelii. “Sinkholes are inevitable and the presence of a gypsum stack is not related to sinkhole formation. However it results in the pond water and gypsum going into the sinkhole.”
According to information from Mele, there is anecdotal evidence of adverse health effects to people living near phosphate mining and manufacturing — though that is not currently backed up by epidemiological studies.
Company officials also denied such claims during the Sun’s tour.
There are also better uses for phosphogypsum than stacking it, according to FIPR, which contends those other options are environmentally safe and economically feasible.
Roofing tiles, landfill covering and road base are just a few of those other uses, according to FIPR.
But for now, the EPA only allows stacking as being most safe.
After the latest lawsuit over environmental concerns ended, Mosaic shifted attention to jobs.
Critics like Mele point to jobs, too.
“They’re just recycled jobs,” he said.
And Lopez said Florida is bet! ter off without industry that “threatens Florida’s bright future.”
During challenging market conditions, Mosaic idled its Plant City operations on Dec. 15.
“To date of the 425 impacted employees — we have offered positions to 248 with the remainder a mix of severance, retirement and resignations,” said Barron.
It’s expected that the DeSoto Mine will employ approximately 250 people when potentially up and running — not including contractors or workforce to build infrastructure prior to mining.
“That will be a mix of people locally and commuting from our existing operational areas,” said Mosaic Spokesperson Heather Nedley.
In the meantime, the company is also making its mark within the rodeo-loving! community in other ways. Mosaic Arena, for example, opens in ! 2018.

 

3 Comments

  1. Yep, once again “Peabody’s coal train done hauled Paradise away!” If the mines get any closer to the old Mount Olive Cemetery, they’ll haul my great-grandfather away (the Rev. James Mitchell Keen)….

  2. Where do I start ?
    Let me talk about the wildlife that I dont have anymore.There are no birds , no squirrels ,racoons ,rabbits , turtles , snakes and many other kinds if wildlife , in my yard or neighborhood anymore. There hasn’t been in almost 8 or 9 months now . I’m convinced that we owe that to the fact that soon after the Mosaic sinkhole (3.7 ) miles from my home and neighborhood and the fact that the Tailings mountains (not piles ), have been getting enormous as well as the gypstacks . The reason there are no more gypstacks being built is because every gypstack near my home has been added onto and reused in the past year and they are being added onto everyday . The Bartow stack was past the permited 200 feet in the summer months of this year . And its grown since then as well .
    If the people of polk county were made aware of the fact that these stacks are going to continue to be reused as a dump site for other counties and also that they are reusing them after they have been capped off for years . I’m sure they would have been at every meeting Manatee had in the past to prevent this from happening . The problem is that these stacks are camophalged. They are hidden and if you are not someone like myself who pays attention to the everyday goings on pertaining to the stacks , you would never notice .
    A few months ago I had the pleasure of speaking to someone who has 30 years + in the mining industry and is still employed at one of the Mosaic facilities here in polk . He stated to me that he hated the fact that Mosaic is ripping the ecosystem apart . When I told him that it was hard to see the stacks from the road no matter how big they are getting , he agreed . He added that Mosaic has intentionally made it that way for a reason.
    The average person would take that statement in a way that they assume that they are hidden to keep the communities from seeing the eyesores that that are . But I know different . I know they hide them because they build them so close to populated communities . Such as the one behind the Mulberry Middle School. That is next door to a public housing apartment complex that sits adjacent to the school .
    That stack and the one behind it has been out of use for years until recently and they both practically knock on the back door of the school and the apartments . There is no telling how much contamination has gone thru that school in the past decades .
    As for the alligators and the tour Mosaic gave the sun . HaHa. I guessing they didnt show them the gators that go for a dip in the pits and get about 3 feet before they die and their eyes boil out .
    I’ve got pics of the South Prong at the Alafia . In fact I just posted them again the other day in my group page . Its obvious that the contamination from the spill there a few years ago is still there . Because to this day thwre is no life in that water . Unless you count the Turtles that attempted to swim there and all thats left is their shells . That river is full of bones . Anywhere you look . No fish , no frogs or tadpoles . No lizards . Nothing !
    Reclaimed ! You mean Rec and Laim. Because there is nothing reclaimed about any of that land . Thats why they plant Pines there . Because pine is basically the only plant life that will grow on the property within a year so that they can sell it after a year to the banks,county ,state , or contractors looking to steal some unknowing person or familys money . I mean look at Our old elected sheriff here in Polk county Louie Mims . He is buying that land left and right. He’s even gone so far as leasing the reclaimed land he bought dirt cheap , so that Mosaic can extend the size of the gypstacks . Another reason no new ones . They are adding on to the acerage size of them as well as the height of them .
    I could go on forever as you all probably can guess . But before I go . I want to stress the fact that there is a way to prevent them from continuing to dig in some countys , such as Manatee . That is we have to stop them from being allowed to dump the gyp in other counties such as Polk and Hamilton .
    IF THEY CANT DUMP IT , THEY CANT DIG IT .
    As you all know , its like pulling teeth here in Polk to get any of the locals to help themselves and fight against mines . Its a culture here . The mining company executives take advantage of this . They count on Polk County communities staying ouy of their way . This needs to change and if we had the support of other counties to help defend the citizens in counties such as Polk and Hamilton then I’m sure that our county residents would take notice of whats going on.
    The ones that know , ignore it and the ones that dont know are the ones we need to make aware of the dangers that the county residents are buying into without any knowledge most of the time of what is really here.

    1. Louella phillips thank you for your great comment. Would love to talk. I live in Polk County and live near many mining operations. Hope we can connect.

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