Army Corps Solicits Comments, Please Act

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.

http://www.phosphateaeis.org/

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.

‘false-fate’
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”
jr.

Adam Cummings’ comments 2011 EPA Conference: Phosphate Mining and the Environment

Adam Cummings’ comments 2011 EPA Conference: Phosphate Mining and the Environment

http://www.protectpeaceriver.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Altman-Recommended-Order.pdf

This document represents my recollection of my comments at the March 28 & 29 EPA Conference in Punta Gorda Florida on the “State of the Science on Phosphate Mining and the Environment” which I am submitting to become part of the public record as requested by the meeting facilitator.

As to your first question, “Is mining affecting the flows of the Peace River?” we do not need to speculate. Charlotte County proved that river flows were affected in court. (Upon returning home I checked my old documents and found on page 72 in paragraph 163 of the attached administrative law judge’s recommended order, “It is also clear that phosphate mining has historically contributed to some extent to decreased stream flow in the Peace River.” Although this order resulted in the Secretary of DEP denying the permit, a later application was approved due to an injudicious settlement by Charlotte County.)

As to your second question, “Is reclamation successful?” During earlier legal proceedings IMC chose 20 reclamation sites and Charlotte County chose 20 reclamation sites for evaluation. Of these 40 long standing reclamation sites, 39 of them no longer met DEP standards. Therefore the reclamation at the time was clearly unsuccessful. The researcher who spoke earlier clearly had it right that unless you can correct the problems in the various strata of the surficial aquifer, you will never get the reclamation right.

Furthermore, one of the things I did notice during this conference was that the economists were looking at later land uses in determining net present value and other economic impacts. In fact there appears to be ever increasing interest in urbanization of reclaimed phosphate lands as this use provided the highest economic return. Unfortunately it appears that the environmental impacts of these later land uses are not being measured as a part of the same study. Either disregard the economic benefit of any later development or include the environmental impacts that will result from that development.

The more prudent course is to consider both. As a County Commissioner I learned that impervious surface is a very important issue when trying to meet TMDL’s. As the percentage of impervious surface in my community increases, the rate of runoff increases which in turn increases the variability of freshwater flows into the estuary. It also increases the pollutant loads since there is less residence time for plants to take up nutrients and less opportunity for other pollutants to be filtered. Obviously this creates water quantity and quality problems. A typical built out urban service area in Southwest Florida can have approximately 50% impervious surface. We have been informed here that a typical successfully reclaimed mine site has about 40% impervious surface in the form of clay settling ponds. If the remaining 60% of the land becomes urbanized with 50% impervious surface that adds an additional 30% impervious surface to the existing 40% impervious surface. If we find ourselves with tens of thousands of acres at 70% impervious surface it is hard to imagine a scenario where we will have a healthy downstream estuary.

Which brings me to my final point. I have been an integral part of this conversation for over 16 years. This has always been viewed as a two step process. We want an AEIS to learn all we can so we can do a better job of managing these impacts. However we have always recognized the need to follow the AEIS with a natural resource management plan. This industry needs to have an overall regulatory plan just like every community must have a comprehensive plan. Industry representatives have told us all for years that phosphate mining is a finite industry in this state. The day will come when all of the economically feasible phosphate has been mined and they will be gone. I want to know that I will still have a healthy vibrant estuary when they are gone. Only with that healthy vibrant estuary can my community have a healthy vibrant economy. We need to have the same assurance from this industry that we are assured from every other economic activity in this state. A successful natural resource management plan including maps of what is and isn’t on the table for consideration of mining permits and the terms under which they would be considered appears to be the most effective way to achieve that public necessity.

At this point I would like to add an additional observation I failed to mention during my comments. Charlotte County and our neighbors spent over $12 million and years of effort to research this issue, improve regulation and enforce existing laws. We gained a great deal of improvements in the management of this resource and the impacts the mining created. Unfortunately after a shift in political winds caused Charlotte County to stop challenging these permits, the very next permit application in the form of the South Fort Meade mine extension undid virtually all of the gains we made. The actions of the industry, the state and the local government stakeholders in this matter have made it perfectly clear that they will make no improvements that are not forced upon them. If the federal government does not enforce the clean water act and other environmental requirements, no one will. We need the EPA and the Army Corp to step up to the plate and ensure the health of this national estuary and our local economy as a result.

Thank you.

Regards,
Adam Cummings
Former Charlotte County Commissioner

Phosphorus and Plastic Pollute World’s Oceans

UNEP: Phosphorus and Plastic Pollute World’s Oceans
http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/feb2011/2011-02-17-02.html
NAIROBI, Kenya, February 17, 2011 (ENS) – Enormous amounts of the fertilizer phosphorus are discharged into oceans due to inefficiencies in farming and a failure to recycle wastewater, the United Nations Environment Programme warns in its 2011 Year Book released today.
An emerging concern over plastics pollution of the oceans is identified in the Year Book as “persistent, bio-accumulating and toxic substances” associated with plastic marine waste.
Research indicates that tiny pieces of plastic are adsorbing and concentrating from the seawater and sediments chemicals from polychlorinated biphenols, PCBs, to the pesticide DDT.
“Many of these pollutants, including PCBs, cause chronic effects such as endocrine disruption, mutagenicity and carcinogenicity,” states the 2011 Year Book.
UNEP released the Year Book 2011 ahead of the annual gathering of the world’s environment ministers that opens on Monday in Nairobi.
Experts cited in the book say that both phosphorus discharge and new concerns over plastics underline the need for better management of the world’s wastes and improved patterns of consumption and production.
“The phosphorus and marine plastics stories bring into sharp focus the urgent need to bridge scientific gaps but also to catalyze a global transition to a resource-efficient Green Economy in order to realize sustainable development and address poverty,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
“Whether it is phosphorus, plastics or any one of the myriad of challenges facing the modern world, there are clearly inordinate opportunities to generate new kinds of employment and new kinds of more efficient industries,” Steiner said.
Demand for phosphorus has soared during the 20th century, and the Year Book 2011 highlighted the nutrient in part because of the heated debate over whether or not finite reserves of phosphate rock will soon run out.
An estimated 35 countries produce phosphate rock. The top 10 countries with the highest reserves are: Algeria, China, Israel, Jordan, Russia, South Africa, Syria and the United States.
New phosphate mines have been commissioned in countries such as Australia, Peru and Saudi Arabia and countries and companies are looking further afield, even to the seabed off the coast of Namibia.
The Year Book recommends a global phosphorus assessment to more precisely map phosphorus flows in the environment and predict levels of economically viable reserves.
“While there are commercially exploitable amounts of phosphate rock in several countries, those with no domestic reserves could be particularly vulnerable in the case of global shortfalls,” the Year Book notes.
There is an enormous opportunity to recover phosphorus by recyling wastewater, the Year Book advises. Up to 70 percent of this water is laden with nutrients and fertilizers such as phosphorus, which currently is discharged untreated into rivers and coastal areas.
Heavy doses of nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen increase the risk of harmful algal blooms, which can prompt the closure of fisheries and swimming areas.
Other measures to reduce discharges include cutting erosion and the loss of topsoil where large quantities of phosphorus are associated with soil particles and excess fertilizers are stored after application.
The Year Book advises that further research is needed on the way phosphorus travels through the environment to maximize its use in agriculture and livestock production and cut waste, while reducing environmental impacts on rivers and oceans.

EPA Conference – Phosphate Mining and the Environment

State of the Science on Phosphate Mining and the Environment:

March 28-29, 2011

State of the Science on Phosphate Mining and the Environment

Sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Charlotte County Event & Conference Center

75 Taylor St, Punta Gorda, FL

Monday-Tuesday, March 28-29, 2011 This State of the Science Conference aims to present current and detailed scientific information about the environmental effects and reclamation of phosphate mining in Florida, with an emphasis on revealing data gaps, information needs, and conclusions from existing studies or research. Presentations will focus on scientific, economic, and technical issues.

EPA Sets Stage For Massive Cleanup Of Homes On Radioactive Mine Sites

Superfund Report – 02/07/2011
EPA Sets Stage For Massive Cleanup Of Homes On Radioactive Mine Sites
http://insideepa.com/201102072353575/EPA-Daily-News/Daily-News/epa-sets-stage-for-massive-residential-cleanup-on-radioactive-mine-sites/menu-id-95.html
Posted: February 4, 2011
EPA has begun aerial surveys of former phosphate mines in central Florida where it fears tens of thousands people may be exposed to dangerous levels of radiation – a key step that could put the agency on the path toward conducting a potentially precedent-setting cleanup of the area.
The surveys – which have been on hold for years as EPA disputed cleanup standards with state and industry officials – could also lay the groundwork for citizen lawsuits that could potentially force mining companies to clean up the area if the agency does not act on its own, a lawyer following the issue says.
At issue are approximately 10 square miles of former phosphate mining lands near Lakeland, FL, where EPA has taken no cleanup action despite having concerns since the late 1970s that the indoor air of homes built on the lands is contaminated with cancer-causing levels of radiation. A fight between EPA, state and industry officials over the appropriate cleanup standard for the sites, along with the potentially overwhelming cost of conducting such a massive cleanup – as much as $11 billion by some estimates – have been among the reasons for the delay (Superfund Report, Sept. 3).
EPA has long considered aerial surveys to be the next step to addressing its concerns about residential exposure because they would enable the agency to better characterize how much of the land in question is contaminated and to what extent. State and federal officials drafted documents in preparation for such surveys in 2006, but the work was delayed as a result of the dispute over cleanup standards, a former EPA official previously told Inside EPA.
According to documents Inside EPA recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), planning to conduct an aerial survey of a limited number of sites was again underway in 2008, but the plans were never executed. But a January 2010 Inside EPA article that for the first time made EPA’s concerns about the area public “prompted renewed interest in the sites,” according to a February 2010 request from EPA Region IV staff to have a meeting about the issue with then-Acting Regional Administrator Stan Meiburg. Among the interest the article generated were requests from officials at EPA headquarters and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) – then chairman of the House Environment Subcommittee – for briefings on the issue from the Region IV staff.
Following these requests, internal discussions regarding aerial surveys resumed, the FOIA documents show, and according to a source with direct knowledge of the surveys, federal contractors completed some survey work on behalf of EPA in January 2011. The source declined to discuss the survey results, however, and it is unclear exactly what EPA’s next steps will be.
EPA officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Surveying the area, however, is an important step that could provide EPA with key information that the agency would need in order to conduct a cleanup of the site, the lawyer following the issue says. Without comprehensive survey data, EPA has been unable to determine exactly how bad the problem is, how widespread it is, and exactly how many homes might have to be cleaned up, the lawyer notes.
If EPA does not initiate a cleanup, the data it collects in such surveys could be be used by residents to launch lawsuits against the companies that mined the area, the lawyer says. If successful, such suits could force the companies to conduct cleanup work on their own or to pay damages to the affected residents, the lawyer adds.
One case in which two central Florida residents sought to hold phosphate mining companies liable for radioactive contamination on their property recently settled for an undisclosed amount, although the case dealt primarily with drinking water contamination rather than indoor air contamination.
In the suit, which had been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Charlie and Kimberly Gates alleged the Mosaic Company, W.R. Grace & Co., Seminole Fertilizer Corporation and Cargill Fertilizer Inc. were responsible for polluting their private drinking water well at their former home in Bartow, FL, and ultimately causing Charlie Gates to contract leukemia. Relevant documents are available on InsideEPA.com.
If EPA does pursue cleanup of the area, the cleanup standards it chooses could set a precedent for future phosphate mine cleanups in Florida and other states, and for sites contaminated with radioactive materials generally. The traditional EPA cleanup standard under Superfund dictates that concentrations of radium-226 – the radioactive substance left behind on former phosphate mine lands – should not exceed 5 picocuries per gram (pCi/g) of soil. But state and industry officials consider the 5 pCi/g standard “overly conservative” and argue no cleanup is necessary unless people are receiving a dose of more than 500 millirems of radiation per year (mrem/year).
If EPA were to accept 500 mrem as a protective standard for the Florida sites, it would set a negative and far-reaching precedent for future radioactive cleanups around the country, environmentalists have said. “EPA has for years said 100 millirem is way outside the [Superfund] risk range,” one activist said previously. “This would be EPA living in a different universe.”
Industry has in the past expressed its contrary view in statements to Inside EPA and closed-door meetings with EPA officials, and according to the recent FOIA documents, such meetings resumed during the past year. One such meeting took place on April 15, 2010, the documents show. According to a letter Mosaic officials sent to EPA in advance of the meeting, the company hoped “to gain an understanding of EPA’s current viewpoint on the issue of radiation on mined lands and whether [the agency’s] focus is on public health or something else.”
Mosaic also sought “to engage in a discussion of what EPA believes is the likely path to set standards, gather data, manage risks, and communicate regarding the radiation issue,” the letter says. “Mosaic, as the largest phosphate mining company in Florida, is interested in what actions the industry can take to engage proactively with EPA, other state and federal agencies, and the residents of Florida toward appropriate next steps.”
The FOIA documents also show that some Region IV officials had concerns about Mosaic’s plans to build a resort on some former phosphate mines near Fort Meade, FL, and suggested to their colleagues that the area be checked out before construction begins.
A spokesman for Mosaic says the April meeting featured “the same topic of discussion” as prior meetings on the issue and that there has “been very little conversation beyond the discussion of an appropriate standard.” – Douglas P. Guarino
© 2000-2011. Inside Washington Publishers

EPA Radiation Protection Standards

As a result of the presence of elevated concentrations of radium-226 and other radionuclides in phosphate ores and mining wastes, many individuals residing in Central Florida are exposed to undesirable levels of radiation. In the absence of adequate measures to protect public health, many more could be exposed in the future, depending upon developing mining and land use patterns. The major exposure problem is associated with structures, principally residences, that are constructed on, near, or using radium-bearing materials related to phosphate ores…. In the United States, the phosphate deposits of Florida contain concentrations of uranium and its decay products at levels about 30-60 times greater than those found in average soil and rock. The presence of this radioactive material in extensive land areas in Central and Northern Florida creates the potential for radiation exposure of the general population living on or near this land.

Read the study here:

EPA Radiation Protection Standards

84,000,000 gallons of contaminated water drain into White Springs sinkhole

The state Department of Environmental Protection has created a new Web site to provide up-to-date information on its ongoing sampling and monitoring of the local water supply after 84 million gallons of contaminated water was released in a spill at PCS in White Springs.  This comes after discovery of a sinkhole inside a phosphogypsum stack system at PCS’s Swift Creek Chemical Complex on Dec. 10. The Swift Creek Chemical Complex is located just east of US 41, about 10 miles northwest of White Springs. The stack system stores process wastewater and gypsum resulting from PCS’ phosphate fertilizer manufacturing operations at this site, according to a DEP press release. “Based on site inspections and ongoing collection of monitoring data, it appears that PCS’s production wells are containing the process water on site and not contaminating the aquifer offsite or nearby potable drinking water wells,” according to a DEP press release. “In an abundance of caution DEP has continued its monitoring of the process wells, local private wells and the waters of the Suwannee River.”  The gypsum stack in which the sinkhole formed is about 140 to 150 feet above ground level, according to DEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller. The sinkhole was about 40 to 50 feet in diameter with a depth of at least 100 feet below surface level, said Miller. The deepest production wells are 750-800 feet deep.  “Aerial surveys and exploratory drilling are being conducted to gather information about the depth and geometry of the subsurface opening which will allow more precise measurement and guidance in grouting the sinkhole,” Miller said.  Furthermore, Miller said no processed water was released before PCS was able to turn on its wells.  “PCS already had wells in operation at the time of the formation, additional wells were put into operation within the hour to make sure they were doing everything they could do to capture the release,” said Miller.  Miller confirmed that some broken chunks of gypsum did fall into the sinkhole. Miller also said there is not a synthetic liner beneath the gypsum stack, but rather a natural clay barrier below the stack area. Concerned citizens can now view the new Web page, which provides up-to-date information on DEP’s ongoing sampling and monitoring: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/secretary/pcs_sinkhole.htm  “This new webpage allows us to make the information about these efforts readily available to the public,” said Deputy Secretary for Regulatory Programs, Mimi Drew in a press release. “We want the public to have real-time information and data about our efforts.”  Residents are encouraged to contact DEP directly with questions and concerns at 850-488-8217. Citizens who may be concerned about their drinking water supply can contact the Hamilton County Health Department at 386-792-1414.  Copyright © 1999-2010 cnhi, inc.

By Stephenie Livingston, Reporter January 08, 2010 11:25 am, Suwanee Democrat

EPA Recommendation for Areawide EIS

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

EPA Sets Scope for Mining Study

EPA Sets Scope for Mining Study

Charlotte Sun

March 17, 2010

http://www.sunnewspapers.net/articles/pnnews.aspx?NewsID=454040&a=newsarchive2/031710/ch5.htm&pnpg=1

‘Sensitive’ area needs impact study, says chief

Calling the Peace River watershed an “important and environmentally sensitive mining region,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency again called for a comprehensive regional impact study on phosphate strip mining within the watershed this week.

The EPA has long advocated an Area-Wide Environmental Impact Study for the Bone Valley phosphate reserve, but Mosaic Fertilizer’s request for a 21-year permit to strip mine its 11,000-acre South Fort Meade Extension triggered the agency to renew that call, wrote Thomas Welborn, chief of the EPA’s wetlands, coastal and oceans branch.

His March 10 letter was written to Col. Alfred A. Pantano Jr., district engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which grants permits for wetland impacts.

The EPA and dozens of environmental groups, political leaders, local governments and residents have been requesting the study for more than a decade. But to date, the corps has denied the requests.

The EPA’s latest letter serves as a follow-up to one sent by the EPA Dec. 15, which said Mosaic’s application for permits to mine the South Fort Meade Extension, located on the Peace River near Fort Meade, falls short in wetlands mitigation. In that letter, the EPA also called for the areawide study.

“(The) EPA is interested in developing a new approach in 404 permit review, to include consideration of overall cumulative impacts within the Bone Valley, rather than incremental review of permits and their associated impacts,” Welborn wrote. “We would like to do this in cooperation and partnership with the ACOE.”

The ACOE has not had a chance to review the EPA’s letter or prepare a response, said Chuck Schnepel, chief of permitting for the corps’ Jacksonville-based district. He declined further comment.

Jim Cooper of Protect Our Watershed, which has lobbied for the study, called the EPA’s letter “a milestone.”

“For a long time, EPA officials have referenced an EIS, but this is much more comprehensive,” he said. “It would be projectwide, studying phosphate mining throughout the Bone Valley, past, present and future.

“It’s very important they knit this tapestry of impacts together and understand, with several of these mines operating simultaneously, these impacts need to be accumulated and taken into account.”

Russell Schweiss, Mosaic’s manager of public affairs, said: “Let’s be clear on one point: The industry has no control over a decision to conduct an Area-Wide EIS. It’s not our call and never has been.

“That said, our consistent position has been that we don’t object to the concept of an Area-Wide EIS, as long as it looks at all impacts, not just the phosphate industry. We don’t see how a study of environmental impacts can be scientifically valid without looking at impacts such as urbanization, development and other land uses that, in many cases, have a far greater footprint in the region.”

Welborn pointed out the EPA has designated the Peace River Watershed as an Aquatic Resource of National Importance. Florida also has declared the river a Priority Watershed.

That indicates both governments have agreed to restore its impaired waters and protect them from further impacts, Welborn wrote.

He also pointed out the Peace provides water to the Charlotte Harbor estuary and 700,000 residents.

Welborn suggested the study determine:

* How mining and other developments will affect compliance with Total Maximum Daily Load limits for pollutants such as phosphorus and nitrogen, which are big factors in the Peace’s impairment.

* What impacts are caused by the giant berms, stacks of phosphogypsum waste and stockpiles of ore created by the phosphate industry.

* Whether the future redevelopment of reclaimed mines into subdivisions, shopping centers or recreational sites will pose impacts or radiation hazards.

Welborn also expressed support for the ACOE’s recent suggestion to convene a “phosphate summit” to address the impacts.

E-mail: gmartin@sun-herald.com

By GREG MARTIN

Staff Writer