Worried about Piney Point? Polk County is ground zero for phosphogypsum stacks

Polk County has at least a dozen such storage sites.

Article by Gary White at The Ledger

“The breach of a reservoir in Manatee County holding wastewater from fertilizer processing offers a reminder that Polk County contains plenty of similar sites.

The leak at the Piney Point phosphogypsum stack is threatening to release millions of gallons of contaminated water into Tampa Bay. The potential environmental catastrophe has drawn national attention.

At least a dozen such stacks exist in Polk County, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Those include the largest storage facility in the state, the 1,147-acre New Wales Stack, about five miles southwest of Mulberry.

Environmental groups are citing Piney Point as a reason not to build or expand gypstacks and to increase state or federal oversight of the ones that exist.

Marian Ryan of Winter Haven has long led efforts by the Sierra Club to oppose phosphate mining and the fertilizer production that results in gypstacks.

“Sierra Club’s position is that they shouldn’t be producing phosphogypsum in their process,” Ryan said. “Our understanding is that there is a methodology for processing phosphate that doesn’t produce phosphogypsum, but apparently it’s not economically feasible. We’re opposed to sacrifice Florida’s environment for chemical fertilizers.”’

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Piney Point threatens Tampa Bay, but other FL estuaries are in trouble, too

Great article in The Florida Phoenix by Craig Pittman.

“Piney Point has a long history of polluting the water and air around its location near Port Manatee, dating to when Borden — yes, the milk and glue company — built the plant in 1966. Just a year later, Borden was caught dumping waste into Bishop Harbor.

Piney Point has repeatedly changed hands since then, with each owner overseeing at least one pollution incident. At one point the state itself owned the plant and wound up loading millions of gallons of wastewater on board a barge, taking it miles offshore, and spraying it in the Gulf of Mexico.

That was in 2003. That summer, I was one of three reporters who spent days on end digging through documents in Tampa and Tallahassee to chart the history of the place. We wanted to find out how it had become, in the words of a top state official, “one of the biggest environmental threats in Florida history.”

Over and over, we found, state Department of Environmental Protection officials bent the rules or ignored warnings about problems, just to try to keep the fertilizer business open a little longer. They kept putting what was good for business ahead of what was good for the bay.”

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Florida’s latest regulatory nightmare exposes a glaring national failure

Great article in The Hill by Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director for the Center for Biological Diversity. She emphasizes the need for EPA regulation for phosphogypsum.

“As environmental regulators and politicians nervously saluted efforts to prevent the catastrophic release of millions of gallons of wastewater from the aging Piney Point phosphogypsum wastewater storage pond near Tampa, Fla., this week, there was scarce little talk of how we got here.

Or of how we’ll prevent similar disasters moving forward.

Much like the country’s toxic coal ash dumps and pollution-spewing oil and gas wells, the dozens of phosphogypsum stacks across Florida and beyond highlight regulatory failures and chronic injustices that pose catastrophic environmental harms and place disproportionate health and safety risks on Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and low-wealth communities.

And in the case of many of Florida’s 25 phosphogypsum stacks, those glaring risks have steadily mounted as state and federal officials ignored signs of troubling failures at outdated facilities plagued by aging infrastructure and lax oversight.

Phosphogypsum waste is created during the process of making phosphoric acid, which is widely used in fertilizers. The toxic, radioactive waste is stored in more than 70 of the mountainous waste piles called “phosphogypsum stacks” in communities in Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. “

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FDEP authorizes emergency release of 480 million gallons of radioactive phosphogypsum toxic waste into Tampa Bay

From the Bradenton Herald on March 30, 2021

Piney Point plans emergency release.
Environmentalists fear impact on water quality.

As site operators at Piney Point begin a controlled release of up to 480 million gallons of contaminated water, environmentalists say they’re bracing for the significant impacts it may have on Tampa Bay.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection authorized the release after a leak was discovered in the largest process water reservoir at Piney Point, a former phosphate plant. State officials say the release is meant to prevent an environmental disaster, but water quality advocates say it could have lasting effects on local water quality.

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Mosaic Seeks More Gypsum Stack Permits Amid Calls For Tougher EPA Oversight Over Contamination Concerns

Mosaic is seeking permits for a 121-acre expansion of the gypsum stack at its New Wales plant and a modification of the reactivated 319-acre stack at its Green Bay plant.

This comes at a time when Sierra and other environmental groups have launched a campaign to seek stronger federal oversight of this waste byproduct of fertilizer manufacturing.

To view the full press release, visit:

Phosphogypsum Online Workshop Clips

The online workshop that was held on facebook March 8th, 2021, covered information about radioactive phosphogypsum toxic waste, the harm it causes to public health and the environment, and more.

The online workshop was about an hour and half.

Below are the cut sections from each speaker.

Introduction to the workshop by Rachael Curran
Jennifer Crosslin
Glenn Compton
Darryl and Milton
Shannon Ansley
Louella Phillips

Phosphogypsum Online Public Workshop Recap

Full recap of phosphogypsum Online Public Workshop held March 8th on Facebook Live.

We heard from community members living near radioactive gypstacks in St. James Parish, LA, Mulberry, FL, Riverview, FL, Palmetto, FL and Pascagoula, MS. We also shared ways to collectively take action to protect our health and the environment from radioactive phosphogypsum.