Matt Dixon, Naples News
5:04 PM, Dec 18, 2014
Federal and state environmental officials are negotiating in hopes of reaching a settlement with Mosaic, among the world’s largest fertilizer companies, over whether it “mishandled hazardous waste” at some of its Florida facilities.
The issue could ultimately cost the company hundreds-of-millions of dollars in facility upgrades and trust fund payments, in addition to a possible penalty of more than $1 million, according to state records and regulatory filings.
It’s part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s crackdown on hazardous waste created by the mineral processing industry.
“The negotiations involving Mosaic are complex and ongoing,” said company spokesman Richard Ghent. “We are negotiating in good faith and we look forward to a successful resolution of the matter.”
Phosphate Ore is the mineral that companies mine and process when producing fertilizer. The toxic byproduct created by the process is stored in up to 200-foot tall piles known as “gypstacks,” which are called “mountains off hazardous waste” by some environmental groups.
“They can sometimes overflow and spill their toxic waste after strong storms or prolonged rain events,” the Sierra Club Florida wrote in a brochure about gypstacks.
The first settlement related to the EPA’s efforts was in 2010 between C.F. Industries, which operated a Plant City fertilizer plant, and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Under the settlement, the company agreed to spend $12 million to reduce the release of hazardous waste, and pay a $700,000 fine. In 2013, Mosaic spent $1.2 billion to buy CF Industry’s Central Florida-based phosphate business, which produce 1.8 million tons of phosphate fertilizer annually.