A water spill at a Mosaic phosphate mine floods creek in southeast Hillsborough

About 6 million gallons of water was released after a pipe broke at Mosaic’s Four Corners phosphate mine. 

State environmental officials are investigating a recent water spill at an active phosphate mine in southeast Hillsborough County owned by The Mosaic Company. Part of the 6 million gallons of water released ended up in a nearby creek.

Mosaic reported that discharge from a pipe break at the Four Corners Mine happened Oct. 2. 

The spill was water from a pipeline used for transferring sand to reclamation areas within the mine about 10 miles east of Sun City Center. About 6 million gallons of turbid water was sent to a ditch that leads into a waterway called Hurrah Creek.

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Piney Point on Tampa Bay is NOT an anomaly. Toxic phosphogysum waste stacks are failing across the nation. From Florida to Louisiana, Mississippi, Idaho, and many others have been impacted by this industry.

Cities and states are not properly managing this toxic waste; the EPA NEEDS to step in and step up improved federal oversight of phosphogypsum.

SIGN PETITION TO EPA: PhosphogypsumFreeAmerica.org

Fertilizer Waste Crisis Needs Fixing: What the EPA, Congress Can Do

“While Piney Point had a particularly well-documented and long history of regulatory failures, it is by no means an anomaly. Leaks, seeps, and discharges from phosphogypsum stacks across the U.S. have caused groundwater contamination and numerous sinkholes. And these incidents, many of which are in Black, Indigenous, and Latino (BIPOC) and/or low-wealth communities, show no sign of slowing despite the well-documented harm.

What Can Congress Do?

Congress could, of course, reverse the Bevill Amendment, or more narrowly amend the RCRA to require the EPA to treat phosphogypsum and process wastewater as hazardous waste. Short of that, it could hold a congressional hearing to investigate the regulatory framework of the phosphate industry and the failure to ensure protection of human health and the environment.

Congress should also identify areas where it can provide additional resources to help the EPA quickly and comprehensively address this problem.

For too long, the phosphate industry has been exempted from accepting responsibility for preventing and cleaning up its ever-expanding toxic crisis. Federal regulators and elected officials must end this toxic nightmare now or shoulder full responsibility for the potentially catastrophic events that lie ahead.”

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Article from Who What Why by CHRIS ROBERTS, April 13, 2021

An enormous, privately owned reservoir at a decommissioned fertilizer plant was leaking and at risk of collapse. If it breached, more than 400 million gallons of mildly radioactive, highly toxic water could rush towards homes, businesses, and Tampa Bay.

“This is not acceptable. This is not something we will allow to persist,” said the governor, who vowed “full enforcement” against HRK Holdings, which had purchased the property in Piney Point in 2006 and used the reservoirs to store dredging waste scraped from the bay floor from nearby Port Manatee. 

But HRK had declared bankruptcy after another leak in 2011 — one of at least three major discharges from the toxic reservoir since the fertilizer plant closed in 2001. 

How Florida would manage to pursue a case against an allegedly broke corporate entity, DeSantis did not say. “We’ll never get a nickel out of them,” Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge later told the Miami Herald.

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Florida to devote $115 million to shut down troubled Piney Point phosphate site

Article in the Orlando Sentinel by JIM TURNER, April 13, 2021

TALLAHASSEE — The state expects to put more than $115 million toward closing the site of a former phosphate plant where a reservoir leak set off a wastewater crisis in Manatee County.

Gov. Ron DeSantis also said Tuesday investigators are working to determine if legal action can be taken against HRK Holdings, the owner of the old Piney Point site.

DeSantis on April 3 declared an emergency in Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties as a leak in a reservoir forced an evacuation of nearby residents amid worries that a wall could collapse, leading to a flood of contaminated water.

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Opinion: Phosphate Polluters

Article in The Bradenton Times by Glenn Compton • Wednesday, Apr 14, 2021

There is general agreement among credible scientists that there is no harmless level of radiation. There is evidence that low-level radon exposure may have a greater relative risk than higher levels of radon exposure. This evidence is recognized and incorporated by EPA’s risk estimate ranges.  

We need to maintain strong phosphogypsum rules and develop other protective regulations. Radon is one of the most significant public health hazards regardless of how scientists work the data.  

Strong industry efforts continue to gut limited phosphate industry regulation. Current regulations are not adequate to address the harm that is occurring from the use of phosphate fertilizers. We should not continue to subsidize the phosphate industry with free water use, preferential electric rates, the right to contaminate ground and surface water and pollute wetlands, etc. Instead, we should curb the overuse of phosphate. 

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USF model shows path of polluted Piney Point discharge water as it spreads around Tampa Bay

Jesse Mendoza Sarasota Herald-Tribune April 14, 2021

A computer model shows that a plume of wastewater from Piney Point has spread as far north as the Little Manatee River and St. Petersburg, and as far south as the Manatee River, as it slowly heads out toward the Gulf of Mexico.

Research teams from the University of South Florida are using a computer model that forecasts the path of nutrient-rich wastewater discharged into Tampa Bay from the former Piney Point fertilizer plant this month as they study how the polluted water is affecting marine ecosystems.

The forecast shows that a plume of the wastewater will shift back and forth along the eastern shores of middle and lower Tampa Bay, from as far north as the Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve and the Little Manatee River south to the northern shores of Robinson Preserve and the Manatee River. The forecast shows varying concentrations of the wastewater have entered important habitats such as Bishop Harbor and the Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve.

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Phosphate industry and us – the story of Piney Point

Column from Sun Port Charlotte by Andy Mele and the Peace+Myakka Waterkeeper

There are several common-sense steps [7] that can prevent another Piney Point, or worse.

1. Require the FDEP to get tougher with the phosphate industry. Bankrupt or not, force the industry to begin Advanced Wastewater Treatment (AWT) on stack fluids immediately. We do not accept procrastination and postponement as viable preventive measures. Piney Point is a clear example of the consequences of “kicking the can down the road.”

2. Empty the cells and seal off the gypstacks now, not 30 years from now. The dry flanks of the 24 stacks in the Bone Valley contain a high percentage of ultra-fine dusts, some particles as small as 1 micron, a clear and present health threat to communities throughout west-central Florida.

3. End the dishonest process of “blending,” in which toxic and hazardous wastes are diluted with tens of millions of gallons per day of prime groundwater — available free to the industry — and then releasing it into surface waters — many of them drinking water sources — once it meets state standards.

4. Any further production of radioactive phosphogypsum and extremely hazardous process fluids must be halted immediately.

5. Firmly oppose the use of phosphogypsum for “Radioactive Roads.”

6. If FDEP can’t handle the job, bring in the federal EPA to regulate the phosphate industry.

7. Require the industry to use reclaimed water for its 90 million gallons per day usage. The state’s water crisis simply cannot permit wasting precious potable water resources.

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