Mosaic apologizes over contaminated water dumped into aquifer

 

Posted Sep 20, 2016 at 2:46 PM

Updated Sep 20, 2016 at 2:46 PM

By John Chambliss GateHouse Florida

BARTOW — Mosaic Co. officials apologized Tuesday morning for failing to inform the public in a timely manner that contaminated water from its plant had been dumped into the Floridan Aquifer.

“We deeply regret we didn’t come forward sooner,” said Walt Precourt, senior vice president of phosphate for the company. “Any explanation about why we didn’t (come forward) would ring hollow.”
The leak occurred after a 45-foot wide, 300-foot deep sinkhole opened under a gypsum stack at its plant in Mulberry.

To read more, click here  http://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20160920/mosaic-apologizes-over-contaminated-water-dumped-into-aquifer

 

Massive sinkhole drains contaminated water into Floridan aquifer

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A massive sinkhole on top of a Mosaic gypsum stack near Mulberry allowed   millions of gallons of contaminated water to flow into the Floridan Aquifer.

Eagle 8 flew over the huge chasm in the earth and spotted a cascading waterfall in the middle of what looks like a moonscape. The is happening in the New Wales plant off Highway 640, south of Mulberry.

The sinkhole opened up almost three weeks ago. Since then, about 215 million gallons of contaminated water have drained into the aquifer. The sinkhole is about 40 feet across. It’s depth is unknown.

It sits right in the middle of a massive gypsum stack. Gypsum comes out of the plant after the company produces phosphate fertilizers and animal feed ingredients.

On Aug. 27 workers monitoring water levels discovered a drop. “When it was first noticed, we installed pumping systems to move water out of that compartment on the gypsum stack, to recover the water,” said David Jellerson, Mosaic’s director of environment and phosphate projects.

The water is contaminated with phosphoric acid and is slightly radioactive. Not all of it is being caught by pumps.

You wouldn’t want to drink it, but so far, Mosaic engineers don’t believe the water is making it to private wells.

Read more http://wfla.com/2016/09/15/contaminated-water-flows-into-floridan-aquifer-after-sinkhole-opens-at-mosaic-facility/

EPA and toxic waste

Stuart Cooper Flouride Action Network October 7, 2015

The company that gets rid of highly toxic wastes by selling them as a “product” to municipal water departments across the country as cheap fluoridation chemicals has been fined $2 billion for gross violations of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), reports the Fluoride Action Network (FAN).

Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC, is one of the largest sellers of a toxic fluoride chemical, “fluorosilicic acid”, that cities add to public drinking water. Fluorosilicic acid is described by EPA in the Consent Decrees as a “hazardous waste” produced at Mosaic’s fertilizer plants. More than 200 million Americans drink these wastes every day.

For decades Mosaic has been selling fluoridation chemicals to public drinking water systems across the U.S. This Kafkaesque scheme, approved by EPA, benefits the polluter in the belief that it helps the teeth of the poor, according to FAN. The fine was levied on October 1st by the EPA and U.S. Department of Justice. These wastes are produced at Mosaic’s six phosphate fertilizer plants in Florida and two in Louisiana.

“It’s outrageous that Mosaic is allowed to sell an EPA ‘hazardous waste’ to dump into the drinking water used in most major U.S. cities,” says FAN scientist Dr. Neil Carman. Dr. William Hirzy, also with FAN, added, “This loophole needs to be closed by the EPA. It was not addressed in the Consent Decrees which allow Mosaic to continue selling a hazardous waste to the public disguised as a way to boost fluoride in drinking water.”

The RCRA laws govern the storage, treatment, and disposal of hazardous waste. Mosaic’s 60 billion pounds of improperly handled hazardous waste cited by EPA is the largest amount ever covered by an RCRA settlement. Mosaic’s wastes have also caused huge local environmental problems, due largely to their high fluoride levels. The fluoride, not captured in pollution control devices and sold for water fluoridation, ends up in their liquid and solid wastes. Other toxic constituents include arsenic, lead, cadmium, uranium, and radium. Enormous quantities of these wastes have been stored for years in so-called gypsum stacks. They will never become non-toxic, and these open hazardous waste piles have regularly leaked into rivers and groundwater causing huge fish kills and other problems.

SHARE THE OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE
For an overview of the phosphate fertilizer industry see http://fluoridealert.org/articles/phosphat

Mosaic slapped with $2 Billion clean up settlement Oct. 2015

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.

Fertilizer company negotiating possible Florida settlement costing more than $775 million

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.

1997 Alafia River Acid Spill

Restoration Work Still to Be Completed After Alafia River Acid Spill
The 1997 spill from a fertilizer plant damaged 377 acres of riverine habitat.
Restoration-Work-Still-to-Be-Completed-After-Alafia-River-Acid-Spill

By Tom Palmer
THE LEDGER
Published: Monday, April 2, 2012 at 11:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 2, 2012 at 11:33 p.m.

MULBERRY | It’s been nearly 15 years since 56 million gallons of acidic waste water from the now-defunct Mulberry Phosphates fertilizer plant turned the Alafia River into a killing zone.
Much of the river has recovered naturally, as environmental systems eventually do in response to natural or man-made assaults.
But the $3.7 million settlement with Mulberry Phosphates’ insurance company in 2002 included $2.4 million to pay for habitat improvement in the freshwater sections of the river to compensate for the damage.
The December 1997 spill damaged 377 acres of riverine habitat and killed or injured any wildlife that couldn’t get out of the way quickly enough on Skinned Sapling Creek and the North Prong of the Alafia River on the outskirts of Mulberry.
The North Prong begins near Mulberry and joins the South Prong, which begins near Bradley, to form the main river channel in eastern Hillsborough County. The river flows to Hillsborough Bay in Riverview.
But the planned restoration won’t occur in the environmentally damaged land along the river in Polk County. Instead, scientists involved in the restoration planning issued a report in February recommending a restoration project in an environmental preserve about 15 miles southwest of the spill site.
The restoration work will occur in an area known as Stallion Hammock in Hillsborough County’s Balm-Boyette Scrub Preserve, a 4,933-acre public preserve and recreation area south of Brandon. Pringle Branch, a tributary of Fishhawk Creek, flows there. Fishhawk Creek is a tributary of the Alafia River.
The proposal involves restoring wetlands in an area that has been impacted by phosphate mining to improve water quality and wildlife habitat.
The 18-page report mentions other projects in the Mulberry area closer to the actual impact of the spill that were considered and rejected.
The report said the five projects were ruled out either because they involved work on private land or because they may not have produced significant environmental improvements or, if they did, would have required long-term monitoring and maintenance.
John Ryan, a Winter Haven environmentalist who was involved in efforts to make sure restoration occurred in upstream areas, said it doesn’t bother him that the final restoration plan will occur in another part of the river basin.
“It doesn’t make any sense to be parochial,” he said, adding that the important thing is that some restoration will occur.
Florida Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Ana Gibbs said the report has been forwarded to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for review.
She said there was no time schedule for getting the work done, explaining that even after the plan gets the go-ahead, it will then require engineering plans and construction bids.
That means the work isn’t likely to occur until at least next year, she said.
[ Tom Palmer can be reached at tom.palmer@theledger.com or 863-802-7535. Read his blog on the environment at environment.blogs.theledger.com. Follow on Twitter @LedgerTom. ]

Placating a Disaster Prone Industry

Expanding Phosphate Mining… Seriously?

Published Sunday, January 15, 2012 12:10 am

by Dennis Maley

As the Manatee County Commission gets set to vote on a Duette phosphate mining expansion recommended for approval by the county’s planning commission, we need to again ask when Florida is going to seriously evaluate the cost/benefit ratio of placating such a disaster-prone industry that has brought relatively little to the table, considering the havoc it’s reeked on our state.

The history of phosphate mining in Florida has been, on the whole, nothing short of disastrous. Locally, our experience over the decades with the Piney Point site should have permanently saddled each resident with a bad taste in their mouth. It’s a dirty business that threatens our environment, while gobbling up precious water supplies and destroying vital wetlands.

Mining phosphates also leaves behind a toxic substance called phosphogypsum, a radioactive byproduct of processing the phosphate, for which no safe use has been found. Dozens of these “gypsum stacks” already line the Florida landscape, and acidic wastewater sits in lined ponds waiting for tears to happen like the one which sent millions of gallons of hazardous discharge into local waters last year. In a hurricane-rich state, these dangers are only heightened.

The mining operations also produce plenty of fluoride gases that once upon a time escaped into the air and poisoned surrounding agriculture and livestock. Pollution control technology like wet scrubbers have helped to contain the fluoride, but it still needs to be disposed of. That’s where you come in. While the FDA has never approved fluoride ingestion for medical use, your body acts as a free filtration system when municipalities buy the toxin from such companies (with your tax money) and dump it into your drinking water, ostensibly to to prevent cavities – a practice that’s been compared to drinking sunscreen lotion to protect from a burn.

For their part, the fertilizer companies promote economic impact, jobs and feeding the world in their multi-million dollar PR campaigns that not only shine the public perception, but also provide fat accounts (and conflicts of interest) for the media outlets that might otherwise be more blunt in their assessments of the industry. But the fact remains, the biggest mining counties in the state are also the most economically depressed and the industry is among the least labor intensive, employing only a handful of people per acre of land mined.

Considering our experience with phosphate mining already, along with the future potential impact of the mining that’s already been done, it doesn’t seem sustainable or desirable to continue going down this path with a resource-intensive industry whose footprint long outlasts the short term and seemingly short-sided benefits.

Dennis Maley is a featured columnist and editor for The Bradenton Times. His column appears every Thursday and Sunday on our site and in our free Weekly Recap and Sunday Edition. He can be reached at dennis.maley@thebradentontimes.com.

Phosphogypsum Stacks

From EPA website….

Stacks
Aerial view
The phosphogypsum, separated from the phosphoric acid, is in the form of a solid/water mixture (slurry) which is stored in open-air storage areas known as stacks. The stacks form as the slurry containing the by-product phosphogypsum is pumped onto a disposal site. Over time the solids in the slurry build up and a stack forms. The stacks are generally built on unused or mined out land on the processing site.
As the stack grows, the phosphogypsum slurry begins to form a small pond (gypsum pond) on top of the stack. Workers dredge gypsum from the pond to build up the dike around it and the pond gradually becomes a reservoir for storing and supplying process water. A total of 63 phosphogypsum stacks were identified nationwide in 1989. They were in 12 different states, but the majority, two-thirds, were in Florida, Texas, Illinois, and Louisiana.

Side by Side
The surface area covered by stacks ranges from about 5 to 740 acres. The height ranges from about 10 to 200 feet. In 1989, the total surface area covered by stacks was about 8,500 acres. More than half that acreage is in Florida.
The tops of operating phosphogypsum stacks (ones that are still receiving phosphogypsum) are covered by ponds and ditches containing process water. “Beaches,” saturated land masses, protrude into the ponds. These surface features may cover up to 75 percent of the top of the stack. Other surface features include areas of loose, dry materials; access roads; and thinly crusted stack sides. (The crust thickens and hardens when the stacks become inactive and no longer receive process slurry.)

Fluoride and the Phosphate Connection

Fluoride and the Phosphate Connection

by George C. Glasser

http://www.purewatergazette.net/fluorideandphosphate.htm

Cities all over the US purchase hundreds of thousands of gallons of fresh pollution concentrate from Florida – fluorosilicic acid (H2SiF6) – to fluoridate water.

Fluorosilicic acid is composed of tetrafluorosiliciate gas and other species of fluorine gases captured in pollution scrubbers and concentrated into a 23% solution during wet process phosphate fertilizer manufacture. Generally, the acid is stored in outdoor cooling ponds before being shipped to US cities to artificially fluoridate drinking water.

Fluoridating drinking water with recovered pollution is a cost-effective means of disposing of toxic waste. The fluorosilicic acid would otherwise be classified as a hazardous toxic waste on the Superfund Priorities List of toxic substances that pose the most significant risk to human health and the greatest potential liability for manufacturers.

Phosphate fertilizer suppliers have more than $10 billion invested in production and mining facilities in Florida. Phosphate fertilizer production accounts for $800 million in wages per year. Florida’s mines produce 30% of the world supply and 75% of the US supply of phosphate fertilizers. Much of the country’s supply of fluoro-silicic acid for water fluoridation is also produced in Florida.

Phosphate fertilizer manufacturing and mining are not environment friendly operations. Fluorides and radionuclides are the primary toxic pollutants from the manufacture of phosphate fertilizer in Central Florida. People living near the fertilizer plants and mines, experience lung cancer and leukemia rates that are double the state average. Much of West Central Florida has become a toxic waste dump for phosphate fertilizer manufacturers. Federal and state pollution regulations have been modified to accommodate phosphate fertilizer production and use: These regulations have included using recovered pollution for water fluoridation.

Radium wastes from filtration systems at phosphate fertilizer facilities are among the most radioactive types of naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) wastes. The radium wastes are so concentrated, they cannot be disposed of at the one US landfill licensed to accept NORM wastes, so manufacturers dump the radioactive wastes in acidic ponds atop 200-foot-high gypsum stacks. The federal government has no rules for its disposal.

During the late 1960s, fluorine emissions were damaging crops, killing fish and causing crippling skeletal fluorosis in livestock. The EPA became concerned and enforced regulations requiring manufacturers to install pollution scrubbers. At that time, the facilities were dumping the concentrated pollution directly into waterways leading into Tampa Bay.

Read more: http://www.purewatergazette.net/fluorideandphosphate.htm