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Alachua County’s Santa Fe River Springs Protection Forum, run by Stacie Greco held its quarterly meeting today at the Potash Corporation mine in Hamilton County, with a group of 20 very interested people. Those in attendance were, for the most part environmentalists, which included members from county conservation boards, Audubon Society, Our Santa Fe River, Sierra Club, Ichetucknee Alliance, Florida Park Service, agriculture and soil biochemists from the University of Florida, Garden Clubs, Florida Springs Council, SRWMD, Palm Beach DEP and Alachua County Environmental Protection Department.
So popular was this tour that Stacie had a sell-out within 30 minutes of announcing the event. There was a limit of 20 and a waiting list of an equal number. The session was very instructional with information shared by PSC employees Mike Williams, David Still, ex-executive director of SRWMD, and Don Dahlgren, manager of restoration.
After the information session, a bus tour was taken to the processing Swift Creek Plant. Everything was viewed from the bus, and no processing was seen up close and no excavation activities. No un-reclaimed land was viewed, other than some gyp stacks.
Since OSFR is involved with the proposed HPS Enterprises mine in Union/Bradford Counties, some off-the-record mention is of interest. The PSC representatives offered the information that, at the moment, there are only two phosphate companies in Florida, PSC and Mosaic. To begin a new company would not be easy, and would require at least eight to nine years from initiation to first operation. A tremendous amount of capital would be required that would have to be able to sit for that time length without producing income. To build a just a processing plant of any kind would cost hundreds of millions.
These representatives were also aware of Professor Hassan El-Shall’s attempts to perfect a new process for water/solids separation in the mining process. The HPS plan projects a use of 20 mgd, the PCS mine uses average of 25 mgd from groundwater, and 10 mgd of surface water from Eagle Lake. PCS makes a case that the drying up of White Springs was not caused by the mine, but rather by the heavy withdrawals of Jacksonville.
Potash Corp. has not been without problems. They have experienced sinkholes and acid spills, and in 2014 the parent company was fined for violating the Clean Air Act, and entered into a settlement agreement to reduce harmful air emissions at eight U.S. production plants, including plants in White Springs.
OSFR found the mine tour a very interesting learning process, and thanks go to both Stacie Greco and the PCS mine.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-