Manatee Wants Mosaic Bribe

 Planning Commission Unanimously Approves Duette Fire Facility and Community Park despite Possibility of Health Hazards

Published Friday, August 13, 2010 3:00 am

by Merab-Michal Favorite

 PALMETTO — Mosaic Fertilizer is donating a fire station and community park in Duette to Manatee County as part of their land post-mining stabilization requirement for the four corners phosphate excavation. While the intentions of the company are good – the decision is not without health risks.

The community park will contain a baseball and soccer field, a 19 acre lake (left over from the mining project), a boat ramp and dock, restroom facilities, picnic and parking areas, irrigation for the fields and a center for environmental education.

The reclamation parcel topography will be returned to the approximate pre-mining state. Re-vegetation will be planted around the site with a one-mile hiking trail around the lake.

“This is a reclamation that is compatible with recreation,” said Dee Allen, permitting super attendant of the project.

Mary Sheppard of the county planning commission pulled the item for discussion to clarify any possible threats and get more information as to what was going into the recreational lake.

 “I remember the last time we had a piece of land after reclamation and we found that the wells and septic tanks could be detrimental to human health,” she said.

The facilities will run off a well and septic tank. The concern is that mines can cause water contamination in many ways. The first is whether the radioactive elements can get into water supplies, be released to the air, absorbed into the skin or accumulated in fish or animals. Heavy metals can have adverse effects on humans and too much phosphate can cause health problems, such as kidney damage and osteoporosis according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The second concern is what happens when the radioactive particles, such as radium and thorium, are concentrated in the clay settling ponds.

High phosphate contents in lakes are initially a good asset. They increase productivity of fish population and overall biological diversity of the system. But, over time, a build-up of phosphate in the lake or surface water ecosystem will accelerate the aging process. This overproduction of the water body can lead to an imbalance and result in out of control algae blooms that have a detrimental effect on wildlife according to a study by Wilkes University.

Fish in phosphate reservoirs do not have heightened heath risk according to a study by the Florida Institute of Phosphate Research but bass contained the uppermost mercury levels.

There is a radiation unease for all buildings on the site. While radiation is a natural part of the environment, it is more concentrated near ore deposits underground. When mining takes place it stirs the layers together and it is separated becoming more intense in the remaining rock deposits. It can become a health risk. Humans can inhale it where it remains in the lungs or gets transferred in the blood stream to bones where it continues to emit radiation.

Homes built in mining areas had heightened radiation levels in a statewide study conducted by GEOMET Technology Inc. The result was a mandate for construction techniques to be developed that resist entry of radon gas into homes – Mosaic assured the commission they would implement these procedures.

“Radon barriers have been incorporated in the plans,” said Dee Allen. “The fire department building will be built with radiation protection techniques.”

The plans have been overseen by the county’s natural resource department. They feel that Mosaic has met all requirements and “will not adversely affect the health, safety or welfare of the neighborhood or the county as a whole.”

“The site has had a significant level of monitoring and it is very safe for public use,” said Dee Allen.