Greg Martin, Reporter
Since the AEIS scoping report is over 2000 pp. long I have obviously not read every word of it – but I have scanned it and read a number of the comments submitted. Based on what I have read and comprehended I would offer the following remarks:
As the AEIS is shaping up I am slowly losing any faith that it will provide the kind of scientific study that we, as an environmental community, were anticipating. It appears to me that the Army Corps of Engineers is happily dancing to the tune of the phosphate mining industry:
1. The scope of the study has been narrowed down to only 4 mines: Mosaic’s Ona, Wingate East, Desoto and CFI’s South Pasture Extension. How is this justifiable?
NEPA defines cumulative effects as “the impact on the environment which results from the incremental impact of the action when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions…” According to my calculations the sum total acreage of the four mines the ACOE is including in the “area-wide impact study” is 48,500. The mining overlay in my county, Hardee, alone is around 130,000 acres. (At the industry’s request and with the compliance of our County Commission an additional 9,000 acres were added to the overlay in 2010) This does not count the overlay in DeSoto County which was also expanded by 17,000 acres in 2010, for a total of 26,000 acres. So, in those two counties alone you have 156,000 acres, and that does not include Manatee and Hillsborough Counties. I would consider it “reasonably foreseeable” that the industry intends to mine all that property given the astronomical profits they are enjoying on agricultural fertilizer. Yet the Corps of Engineers has announced they will be only considering less than a third of that in this study. Actually, since county governments are so compliant with the industry and so willing to expand their mining overlays at their behest, then I think the amount of land mined could actually be much more than that. I’ll attach the map titled “Proposed Mining Limits” which Mosaic drafted during the “global settlement” discussions with Charlotte County in 2007. You will see that they would really like to gobble up practically the entirety of Hardee County (400,000 acres).
2. The comments in the recent scoping report from the ACOE included over 2000 respondents from Polk and Hillsborough Counties, or roughly 75% of total comments. These respondents are almost universally employed by the phosphate industry or people who are doing business with the industry. I read a great many of these comments. The vast majority plea for the economic necessity of the industry and are willing to forgive any impacts to the environment. They regard environmental advocates as hostile to the industry and a threat to their livelihoods and the existence of the industry. This is the pattern at almost every conference or phosphate mine hearing I’ve ever attended over the past 10 years. Every meeting is stacked with employees of the industry who passionately defend their employers as environmental “stewards” of the land. Yet, those claims fly in the face of a great deal of the scientific data gathered by objective sources such as USGS and others, and defies common sense, in my opinion, considering that almost 600 square miles of central Florida has been mined over the years and much of that remains unreclaimed (non-mandatory lands) and 40% of that in clay slimes. Some of these respondents who support the industry feel, for example, that it’s preferable to live on unreclaimed phosphate land than it is on natural unmined land. I am sure many of these are the same people who are attacking the EPA for conducting aerial surveys for radioactivity on their property because they don’t even want to know if there’s radioactivity around their homes.
So, I don’t see much hope for the AEIS as it is shaping up. Given the narrow scope of the project and the foreshortened time-frame for its accomplishment (one year) I don’t think it will have any validity whatsoever as an Area-wide Environmental Impact Study. In their comments Mosaic argues for “no new data” either, so at the rate things are going it wouldn’t surprise me if the ACOE complied with that as well. Not to mention that the company that’s actually conducting the study (CH2MHill)is allegedly a customer of Mosaic.
Hope these remarks help with your article.
Director, 3PR (People for Protecting Peace River)
Originally posted on the Bradenton Times: www.thebradentontimes.com.
Ecology Party Alleges Major Conflict of Interest with Army Corps of Engineers’ Phosphate Mining EIS Contractor
The Bradenton Times
Published Saturday, April 30, 2011 2:00 am
by Ecology Party of Florida
JACKSONVILLE – The Ecology Party of Florida has discovered a direct conflict of interest with CH2M Hill, the engineering firm awarded the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) contract for preparing the Areawide Environmental Impact Statement (AEIS) of phosphate mining. The AEIS is supposed to determine all of the direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of phosphate mining in Florida, including groundwater pirated from the Everglades watershed by the phosphate mining companies.
One of the adverse impacts of phosphate mining is that a hazardous form of fluoride is produced as one of the mining by-products. Instead of properly disposing of this hazardous waste, phosphate mining companies such as Mosaic, one of the companies with mines being evaluated under the AEIS, “dispose” of the hazardous fluoride by selling it to be dumped into municipal water systems throughout the US as fluoridation of our tap water.
“While preparing comments for the Army Corps’ initial public comment period regarding issues to be addressed in the AEIS we discovered that the Army privatized its water and wastewater systems at Fort Campbell, Kentucky in 2007 in a 50-year deal with CH2M Hill. In that deal CH2M Hill produces fluoridated water for the Army’s 101st Airborne Division and any other military personnel at Fort Campbell,” says Cara Campbell, Chair of the Ecology Party of Florida.
“That arrangement means CH2M Hill is using the Army as a lucrative market for the hazardous fluoride produced by the mining companies that the Army Corps hired CH2M Hill to evaluate in the AEIS,” Campbell explained. “If that sounds convoluted, that’s because it is, and in our opinion, that conflict of interest makes it impossible for CH2M Hill to produce an unbiased AEIS. Therefore, we have requested that the Army Corps select another contractor to administer the AEIS,” says Campbell.
Ecology Party Treasurer Gary Hecker adds, “In addition to that conflict of interest, CH2M Hill also is the contractor for water utilities in Florida, like the City of Cocoa, that fluoridate municipal water, then dispose of that fluoridated water into our streams, lakes and coastal waters or inject it into our aquifer. CH2M Hill, for example, was contracted by Miami-Dade to inject fluoridated sewage effluent into the aquifer. The corporation also has been awarded contracts for designing, modeling, constructing and/or monitoring engineered approaches marketed as “alternative” water supplies such as “aquifer storage and recovery” (ASR) and excavated pits known as “reservoirs” in areas of Florida where natural water resources have been depleted or contaminated by mining, such as the Tampa Bay area “reservoir” which is located in the phosphate mining area. Clearly these additional conflicts further underscore the impossibility of having such a company evaluate mining impacts in an unbiased way.”
Information regarding the AEIS for phosphate mining is posted at: www.PhospateAEIS.org
This email was sent to me today by environmental activist, John Rehill, of Duette, FL. Note the before/after photographs of Bartow’s Kissengen Springs (embedded in his message)….
Army Corps of Engineers wants phosphate mining comments
The Bradenton Herald 4-12-2011
MANATEE — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is soliciting public comments on what should be included in an comprehensive review of phosphate mining’s impacts on Florida.The Corps plans to study mining’s environmental, socio-economic and other impacts in the Central Florida Phosphate District. The district, also known as “Bone Valley,” is a 1.3-million-acre area covering parts of Manatee, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Polk and DeSoto counties.
Comments on the study’s scope can be made by going to the project website, www.phosphateaeis.org. The comment deadline is April 25.
Court to take second look at Mosaic permit
MANATEE — A U.S. District Court will take a second look at whether the Mosaic Company should be allowed to proceed with a 7,600-acre phosphate mining project in Hardee County.
That’s because a federal appeals court ruled Friday the district court should not have issued a preliminary injunction on the project back in July, and should take another 90 days to review a permit issued to Mosaic by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Three environmental groups, including Manasota-88 and the nationwide Sierra Club, had filed suit against the Corps and Mosaic contending the permit did not comply with the federal Clean Water Act and would damage 534 wetland acres, 26 open-water acres and 10-plus miles of streams.
Mosaic on Monday praised the appellate court’s decision to vacate the injunction as a “timely ruling,” while attorney Eric Huber of the Sierra Club said his group was “glad” the permit will be stayed for another 90 days. Meanwhile, Mosaic continues to mine 200 acres of the Hardee County site under a settlement agreement reached with the environmental groups that involves protection of 40 key acres that encompass 14.3 acres of wetlands.
The Hardee County project, known as the South Fort Meade mine, is of regional concern both because of the hundreds of jobs provided by Mosaic Co., and the pivotal environmental role of the Peace River and its tributaries that are impacted by the mining project.
For those of you who wish to protect our water source, our estuaries, our rivers, wetlands and migration trails from strip-mining and the toxic environment left in it’s wake, please read this and respond by leaving a comment at the website above. If we don’t who will?
Of the many hundreds of thousands of acres that have been mined in central Florida, under 20% has experienced any form of reclamation. A Wetland is like “coral,” they are a thousand years in the making. They are a living breathing essential part of one of earths vital functions. That is to recharge our ecosystem’s ground water by filtering and percolating surface water to where it is stored for our drinking pleasures, in the aquifer. They recharge our streams, make water available for trees and habitat for migrating animals. They can only be destroyed by man they can’t be created. Any effort to do so is cosmetic at best and to be told otherwise is an insult to our intelligence. We have lost thousands of acres of wetland to phosphate mining. We don’t have that many left.
Water, the most critical element to our quality of life, is in peril and Mosaic is perched to prey on what’s left. Their sites are set on the Peace River watershed, a water source for almost 1 million people. This is not mentioned in the above article. It also doesn’t mention the river is a major source of fresh water to Charlotte Harbor, an important fishing and recreational area that also provides nursery habitat for numerous commercial and recreational fish and shellfish, and shelters species such as the West Indian manatee. The article neglects to say the headwaters also feed an estuary of national significance under the National Estuary Program and it is to be protected. That is because The Army Corp Of Engineers and SWIFTMUD have neglected to live up to that obligation and have only rubber stamped every permit that has been put before them when it came to Mosaic.
If we do not step up now and insist ACOE deny any further abuse to this last available resource of fresh water, who will?.
Mosaic is riding into this disaster on a horse called “JOBS.” I will remind you, Mosaics employs fewer workers per acre than any other occupation. Less than 3,000 employees at it’s best, on land the size of some counties. The math works out at about one worker for every 250 acres. Even national parks beat that.
Below is a park that once existed, but today is gone, history, no sign of existence, swallowed up from mining. Florida has lost many of these could-be recreational areas, recharging our economy or maybe preventing what has happened to it. But there is nothing but barren ruins.
I beg you, STOP mosaic from destroying the last bit of what Florida is. The estimated cost to the land that lay neglected is tens of billions of dollars and we are stuck with the bill. How can we get rid of our Teachers and let this GIANT corporation stick us with dead dirt and a future of peril?
I have included a list below of effects caused by phosphate mining incase one needs a subject to focus on, titled “False Fate” Please, Please, Please help us out. It will only take a few minutes.
At left, Kissengen Spring, located four miles southeast of Bartow, was a popular recreational area. It stopped flowing in 1950 due to over pumping of the aquifer in the region, largely by the phosphate industry. When the spring flowed, it discharged about 20 million gallons of water daily into a spring pool from a 17-foot deep cavern. Today the spring basin is overgrown with native and invasive plants and there’s little evidence of its former glory. Overuse of groundwater by industry, agriculture and residents in the upper and lower basins continues to cause problems in the Peace River watershed.
What does “Phosphate” mining do?
Here are some of the affects.
1- It destroys wetlands
2- It destroys stream and river water quality
3- It fractures the 10,000 year old “hardpan”
4- It destroys megatons of CO2 consuming foliage
5- It releases “Radon Gas”
6- It concentrates “uranium”
7- It drawls down the aquifer
8- It’s “runoff” overburdens estuaries
9- It’s repressive to county economic growth
10- It destroys old-growth trees
11- It’s machinery contaminates the aquifer
12- It strips the top-soil of all nutrients
13- It contributes to “sinkholes”
14- It uses huge amounts of fuel
15- It uses huge amounts of water
16- It tyrannizes surrounding property owners
17- It reduces surrounding property value
18- It employes fewer employees, per acre, than almost all other occupations
19- It corrupts local politicians
20- It poisons wells
21- It dries-up wells
22- It pollutes the air with “volatile” dust
23- It buries gopher tortoises
24- It destroys wild animal migration corridors
25- It destroys all of the native animal food-stock habitat
26- It destroys all of the grounds’ micro-flora
27- It promotes the growth of invasive plant species
28- It leaves the land to very limitable uses
29- It stores hundreds of billions of gallons of extremely toxic water behind hurricane vulnerable dikes
30- It exposes arsenic into the environment
31- It converts hectors of farmland into pits of barren topography
32- It dries up surrounding ponds
33- It uses tax revenue, externalizing operational cost to the public
34- It stinks
“Don’t let our worst habits
become our habitat”
Sarasota County’s assistant attorney, David Pearce, sent a lengthy memorandum to Water Resource Manager, Jack Merriam, outlining the legal parameters of the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) recently undertaken by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Click to read the entire article
The EPA reiterates its recommendation that the Army Corps of Engineers order an ‘area-wide Environmental Impact Statement before issuing a 404 Dredge and Fill permit for the South Fort Meade Mine Hardee County Extension (10,885 acres). The environmental community and various counties have been calling for this study for 18 years. It would require the mining industry to account for all past, present, and future impacts on the Peace River basin – including clay waste disposal, radio-activity on reclaimed land, and phosphogypsum stacks.
Read it here: EPA Recommendation for Areawide EIS
In their letter the EPA reminded the Corps that the Peace River watershed is of special importance to both the state and the federal government, and that EPA has stated in documents dating back to the summer of 2007 that “…this mine expansion project, as well as any proposed mining projects within the Peace River phosphate region, a current, area-wide Environmental Impact Statement is most needed in order to address the extensive cumulative impacts and changes to these watersheds due to the phosphate mining industry.”