Here is a link to the press release of the recent appeal of our challenge to the Army Corp and the AEIS (Area Wide Environmental Impact Study) regarding the South Pasteur Extension Mine in Hardee County.
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An agribusiness company that turned phosphate into fertilizer must pay $1.5 million in permit fees annually to eastern Idaho tribes to store millions of tons of toxic waste on tribal lands, a federal court has ruled.
Letters to the Editor
Saturday, Feb 11, 2017
Would mining activities preclude future normal uses of mined out lands? This is question #6 from the Manatee County staff report, Standards for Master Mining Approval, page 13.
The answer is much more than staff reports. Not only building, but agriculture on reclaimed land would be extremely limited. Is the burden of proof not on the applicant? The market has not demonstrated that agriculture is a viable use of reclaimed mine land.
Mosaic may have their small, intensely managed experiments with ag after mining, however, vast areas of western Polk County demonstrate no agriculture to speak of on reclaimed land. The only exception is a rare siting of a few cows on grazing land.
Go to Hardee County. In 2008, a “Mosaic Agreement” granted the county economic gurus 42 million dollars over a ten year period as compensation for the 11,000 acre South Fort Meade Extension mine. The county will tell you is for economic mitigation in the post-mining economy. This money hopes to start up industry, but the results have been questionable at best. Is this not an admission even by the industry itself that after mining and reclamation, lands will not support the former economy of agriculture.
One time, temporary use; permanent loss. Phosphate strip mining is only profitable for Mosaic. Commissioners, think ahead one hundred years. Vote for Manatee County. Vote no on phosphate mining.
Bone Valley resident
Four environmental groups have put the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on notice that they’ll sue if the Corps follows through with authorizing phosphate mining on more than 50,000 acres of land in Central Florida. The environmentalists say the strip mining damages wildlife habitat and endangers drinking water and they’re threatening to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well.
“The Army Corps of Engineers has recently approved the phosphate mining development of about 50,000 acres of central Florida and this is predominately in Hardee, Manatee County areas and a little bit in DeSoto County. Most recently, they approved 7,500 acres of mining to start eminently, any moment now, in Hardee County.
“All this mining is going to be taking place in a region known as Central Florida Phosphate District. It’s an area that has seen tremendous phosphate mining over almost the last century. If you go out to that area, which is just east of Tampa, you’ll see the scars from historic phosphate mining.
“Before 1975, phosphate mines didn’t have to be reclaimed. If you’re ever in an airplane over that region of Florida, you’ll see these, sort of really pretty colored bluish-green bodies of water, like lakes, in these strips. That’s the legacy of strip-mining in Florida for phosphate. Since 1975, the companies have been forced to reclaim the land, which is to put it back to some sort of beneficial use, but, not necessarily to restore it.
“Our concern with this 50,000 acres of additional mining is first, it leaves a huge footprint on Florida. You’re removing 50,000 acres of habitat for imperiled species like, the eastern indigo snake and the crested caracara. Also, you’re adding to our existing phosphogypsum problem.
for complete article http://www.wmnf.org/environmentalists-sue-corps-florida-phosphate-mining/
POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Some residents who live near the massive sinkhole at Mosaic’s New Wales Plant are worried about their well water.
Recent test results show they should be concerned because of high levels of radioactive material. What is not clear is whether the Mosaic sinkhole, which dropped 215 million gallons of radioactive water into the Florida aquifer, has anything to do with it.
Mosaic – and some experts – say it’s possible the radioactivity was already present in some of these wells. They said it could have been caused by by “natural geologic processes.” Testing so far, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, show the contaminated water has been captured exactly the way it should be.
A DEP spokeswoman sent 8 On Your Side an email that said test results do not show that contaminants from the New Wales plant are showing up in the well water. There are certain characteristics from the New Wales water that are not showing up in the well water, leading the state to conclude the harmful materials in the water are unrelated to the sinkhole. The state official wrote:
“The ongoing monitoring onsite at the New Wales facility continues to show no movement of process water away from the sinkhole location. Process water is only being detected in the recovery well samples to date, which indicates that the recovery well is working as expected and capturing process water. In this geographic region of Florida, levels of gross alpha that are above the drinking water standard are often associated with natural geologic processes. In other cases, they may be related to the construction of the water well itself. ”
But resident Jennifer Psait isn’t sure she’s buying that. She points to a delay in Mosaic notifying residents about the problems.
One of two wells on Bob Glaze’s property has so much radium in the brown water that he shut it off – out of fear. Psait is Glaze’s next-door tenant. She shares his two wells. Psait is worried about her three children who, until recently, drank and bathed in the water
“I’m not a chemist, or a chemistry student,” she said. “I think that’s pretty bad.”
Water tests show radium levels of 52.01 picocuries per liter – that’s more than five times the acceptable standard. Psait is concerned about the lack of information from Mosaic officials. And she’s leery of what they do tell her, since the company wasn’t forthcoming, at first, when the sinkhole opened in late August.
“The thing I really don’t respect about them is that they knew that had happened, even when they had coordinated with the legislature and they didn’t report it to the public. They only reported it when it started getting leaked,” Psait said.
The Mosaic sinkhole dropped more than 215 million gallons of radioactive water into the Florida aquifer. The company has tested 763 nearby wells and say 10 show water that’s not safe to drink. But the company takes no responsibility for this, saying the radioactive materials are just a coincidence.
DEP officials say they are trying to contact all of the residents with wells that showed contaminated water and will assist those residents in determining how to fix their water issues. In the meantime, Mosaic continues to deliver drinking water to residents who request it.
Phosphate giant Mosaic agrees to pay nearly $2 billion over mishandling of hazardous waste
· Craig Pittman, Tampa Bay Times Staff Writer
Thursday, October 1, 2015 12:53pm
Mosaic Fertilizer, the world’s largest phosphate mining company, has agreed to pay nearly $2 billion to settle a federal lawsuit over hazardous waste and to clean up its operations at six Florida sites and two in Louisiana, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday.
“The 60 billion pounds of hazardous waste addressed in this case is the largest amount ever covered by a federal or state … settlement and will ensure that wastewater at Mosaic’s facilities is properly managed and does not pose a threat to groundwater resources,” the EPA said.
The EPA had accused Mosaic of improper storage and disposal of waste from the production of phosphoric and sulfuric acids, key components of fertilizers, at Mosaic’s facilities in Bartow, New Wales, Mulberry, Riverview, South Pierce and Green Bay in Florida, as well as two sites in Louisiana.
The EPA said it had discovered Mosaic employees were mixing highly-corrosive substances from its fertilizer operations with the solid waste and wastewater from mineral processing, in violation of federal and state hazardous waste laws.
“This case is a major victory for clean water, public health and communities across Florida and Louisiana,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
Mosaic CEO Joc O’Rourke said the company is “pleased to be bringing this matter to a close” and pledging to be a good environmental steward. The Minnesota-based company was formed in 2004 by a merger of IMC Global with the crop nutrition division of Cargill.
Mosaic officials in Florida said the EPA investigation and negotiations for a settlement have been going on for eight years, and what they were doing was something everyone in the phosphate industry was doing as well.
The settlement with the EPA, the Justice Department, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality will have no impact on Mosaic’s continued employment or on its future mining expansion plans in DeSoto, Hardee and Manatee counties, they said.
First discovered by an Army Corps of Engineers captain in 1881, Florida’s phosphate deposits today form the basis of an $85-billion industry that supplies three-fourths of the phosphate used in the United States. Although phosphate mining provides a major financial boon to the small communities in which the mines are located, it also leaves behind a major environmental mess.
The miners use a dragline with a bucket the size of a truck to scoop up the top 30 feet of earth and dump it to the side of the mine. Then the dragline scoops out the underlying section of earth, which contains phosphate rocks mixed with clay and sand.
The bucket dumps this in a pit where high-pressure water guns create a slurry that can then be pumped to a plant up to 10 miles away.
At the plant, the phosphate is separated from the sand and clay. The clay slurry is pumped to a settling pond, and the phosphate is sent to a chemical processing plant where it is processed for use in fertilizer and other products. The sand is sent back to the mine site to fill in the hole after all the phosphate is dug out.
A byproduct, called phosphogypsum, is slightly radioactive so it cannot be disposed of easily. The only thing the miners can do with it is stack it into mountainous piles next to the plant. Florida is such a flat state that the 150-foot-tall “gyp stacks” are usually the highest point in the landscape for miles around. They contain large pools of highly acidic wastewater on top, too.
“Mining and mineral processing facilities generate more toxic and hazardous waste than any other industrial sector,” Giles said. “Reducing environmental impacts from large fertilizer manufacturers operations is a national priority for EPA.”
Mosaic’s production of pollution is so great that in 2012, the Southwest Florida Water Management District granted the company a permit to pump up to 70 million gallons of water a day out of the ground for the next 20 years. Mosaic is using some of that water to dilute the pollution it dumps into area creeks and streams so it won’t violate state regulations.
The EPA investigation was prompted by a 2003 incident in which the Piney Point phosphate plant, near the southern end of the Sunshine Skyway, leaked some of waste from atop its gyp stack into the edge of Tampa Bay after its owners walked away.
That prompted EPA to launch a national review of phosphate mining facilities, said EPA spokeswoman Julia Valentine. That’s how inspectors found workers were mixing the corrosive substances from the fertilizer operations with the phosphogypsum and wastewater from the mineral processing, she said.
That mixing was something everyone in the industry did, according to Richard Ghent of Mosaic’s Florida operations. The EPA said that violated both state and federal law and put groundwater at risk. It has previously gotten settlements from two other companies, one of which, CF Industries, has since been taken over by Mosaic.
Despite the mishandling of the waste, Debra Waters, Mosaic’s director of environmental regulatory affairs in Florida, said the company has seen no change in the area’s groundwater as a result, which EPA officials said was correct.
The fact that the negotiations have been going on for so many years, she said, “should indicate that there’s no imminent threat.”
The company will invest at least $170 million at its fertilizer manufacturing facilities to keep those substances separate from now on. Mosaic will also put money aside for the safe future closure of the gypsum stacks using a $630 million trust fund it is creating under the settlement. That money will be invested until it reaches $1.8 billion, which will pay for the closures.
The South Pierce and Green Bay plants, both in Polk County, are already in the process of shutting down, with the closure of the gyp stacks already underway, Waters said.
Mosaic will also pay a $5 million civil penalty to the federal government, a $1.55 million penalty to the State of Louisiana and $1.45 million to Florida, and it will be required to spend $2.2 million on local environmental projects to make up for what it has done.
Mosaic, which runs television ads touting its importance in growing crops to feed the world, has previously run afoul of the EPA on its air pollution standards. However, last year company was rated one of the top 50 employers in America based on salary and job satisfaction. Mosaic employs about 1,200 people in Hillsborough County alone.
The settlement agreement negotiated between the environmental plaintiffs (Sierra Club, Manasota-88, and People for Protecting Peace River) was approved by the District Court.
A copy of the court’s order is attached to this post.
As you may or may not know, Mosaic filed a notice of appeal on July 15 with the 11th Circuit regarding our second preliminary injunction which was granted on July 8. That appeal (No. 11-13277-EE) has officially begun with the filing of Mosaic’s Motion for Stay Pending Appeal, which is attached here. Eric asked that I send all of you a copy of the document; if there are any questions, please feel free to contact me.
Amber E. Williams
Sierra Club Environmental Law Program
1650 38th Street, Suite 102W
Boulder, Colorado 80301
(T) 303.449.5595 ext. 104
EPA, GOP In ‘Head-To-Head’ Fight Over Residential Radiation Standard
Posted: July 8, 2011
A group of Republican congressmen from Florida are battling EPA over whether the agency should survey parts of the state where it fears tens of thousands of people living on former phosphate mines may be exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, with the lawmakers challenging EPA’s long-held cleanup standard for radioactive contamination in residential areas.
According to one congressional staffer, the Republican congressmen and EPA’s administrator are in a “head to head” fight over the surveys, even as EPA is considering using them more widely.
At issue are approximately 10 square miles of former phosphate mining lands near Lakeland, FL, where EPA has taken no cleanup action despite having had concerns since the late 1970s that the indoor air of homes built on the lands is contaminated with cancer-causing levels of radiation. EPA’s concerns, made public by an award-winning series of Inside EPA articles in 2010, have prompted a negative reaction from the Republican congressmen, who believe the agency’s fears are overblown.
In February the lawmakers, who include Reps. Dennis Ross, Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Richard Nugent and Thomas Rooney, sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in which they take issue with EPA having recently conducted a preliminary aerial survey near the area in question, according to the letter, which Inside EPA recently obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The survey is considered to be a key early step in a possible cleanup process (Superfund Report, Feb. 7).
In the letter, the lawmakers call EPA’s long-held standard for cleaning up radioactive contamination in residential areas “arbitrary” and claim that past studies by the Florida Department of Health found no health risks in the area. Relevant documents are available on InsideEPA.com. (Doc ID: 2369534)
In a May response letter to the congressmen, EPA waste chief Mathy Stanislaus does not directly address the lawmakers’ challenge to the agency’s cleanup standard. But he defends EPA’s use of aerial surveys and does not offer to halt such surveys or notify the lawmakers prior to conducting them in the future, as the lawmakers demand in their letter.
Stanislaus offers to meet with the congressmen, but according to an EPA spokeswoman, no such meeting has been scheduled.
According to a spokesman for Ross, the congressmen are “still in a head-to-head fight with [EPA Administrator] Lisa Jackson about getting notification on flyovers, let alone having them brought to a halt.” Spokesmen for the other lawmakers could not be reached for comment.
Stanislaus says that the limited survey EPA conducted earlier this year “contributed valuable information to the agencies as plans for a larger-scale survey were considered . . . Based on this information, EPA is considering a larger-scale aerial survey to collect data related to phosphate mining sites and background areas.”
He adds that it “is important to note that conducting an aerial survey is not necessarily an indicator of a concern or a need for remedial action. Surveys are also useful tools for confirming areas that are not considered to pose potential health or ecological risks.”
According to the EPA spokeswoman, EPA has not yet made a final decision on how to proceed with such surveys.
The EPA standard, which the agency has used as the basis for radiological cleanups near residential areas throughout the country, has long been a source of contention between EPA, Florida and phosphate mining industry officials. The disagreement is one of the main reasons why the agency has yet to act on its concerns about human exposure in the area (Superfund Report, Jan. 25, 2010).
The standard, which comes from EPA’s regulations under the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act (UMTRCA), dictates that radium-226 concentrations in soil — which are often elevated on land that has been mined for phosphate — should not exceed 5 picocuries per gram (pCi/g) above what naturally occurs in the area. EPA has long relied on the standard as an applicable or relevant and appropriate requirement (ARAR) under Superfund law for radioactive cleanups near residential areas around the country.
But Florida officials have argued that no cleanup is necessary unless people are being exposed to more than 500 millirem (mrem) of radiation per year, a suggestion that some environmentalists fear could set a dangerous precedent given that EPA has historically considered exposures above 15 mrem to be unsafe.
In their February letter, the congressmen claim that the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) “in reviewing the [EPA] standard, stated [it] could be set two orders of magnitude higher and still be protective of human health.”
But while ATSDR in documents previously obtained by Inside EPA suggests that it would be satisfied with a 100 mrem standard, the agency in the documents says it does not object to EPA relying on its traditional ARAR, to which the congressmen and state officials are opposed.
In addition, ATSDR says in the documents that it agrees with EPA that aerial surveys of the area are necessary.
But in their letter, the Republican congressmen call such surveys “an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars. Furthermore, the arbitrary standard advocated by the EPA creates a significant risk of placing an unjustified and permanent stigma over thousands of acres of land in [our] district[s].
“Florida’s real estate market is already under significant duress as a result of the economic downturn in our own state,” the lawmakers add. “These potential actions by the EPA stand to impede Florida’s recovery without any basis in human health risks.”
According to documents Inside EPA previously obtained under FOIA, many of the areas EPA is concerned with are occupied by wealthy, up-scale residential developments and resorts. But according to more recent documents, EPA is also concerned that some of the potentially affected areas could be low-income or minority communities, creating environmental justice concerns. — Douglas P. Guarino
© 2000-2011. Inside Washington Publishers
Douglas P. Guarino
Inside Washington Publishers
(Inside EPA’s Superfund Report)
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