High Radiation Levels alarm Mulberry citizens

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.

Testing shows radioactive material in wells; state says material is unrelated to Mosaic sinkhole

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.

Mosaic Appeals District Court Injunction on S. Ft. Meade Mine Extension

Hello Everyone:

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
(F) 303.449.6520

EPA, GOP In ‘Head-To-Head’ Fight Over Residential Radiation Standard

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
Associate Editor
Inside Washington Publishers
(Inside EPA’s Superfund Report)
1919 South Eads Street, Suite 201
Arlington, VA 22202

Opponents challenge new Mosaic mining plan

Opponents challenge new Mosaic mining plan

Fort Meade Leader/Polk County Democrat
Staff Writer
Saturday, April 23, 2011 1:54 PM EDT
A plan unveiled earlier this week that would keep mining operations going for at least another year is being challenged by opponents who filed a lawsuit last year to stop an expansion at Mosaic’s South Fort Meade site.

An expansion into Hardee County that would involve mining about 7,800 total acres has been embroiled in legal wranglings since last summer. Mosaic is seeking the expansion to keep the mine operations uninterrupted, and avoid laying off about 140 workers.

A trio of groups, including the Sierra Club and People for Protecting the Peace River (3PR) filed suit to stop the expansion. A federal judge issued a halt to the expansion plan after the suit was filed, but earlier this month a federal appeals court sent that ruling back to the lower court with instructions to take a new look at its decision. It gave the lower court a 90-day stay of its injunction while it came up with a new ruling.

In the meantime, the two sides agreed last October to a deal that would allow Mosaic to mine 40 acres in Hardee County, thereby forestalling any layoffs. However, Mosaic said that would only allow them to mine there into early summer.

Late Tuesday, Mosaic revealed it had come up with a plan that would allow them to use those 40 acres to access another 700 acres on the site, dubbed Area 2, that did not involve any wetlands. As such, the phosphate giant said it did not need any further permitting for that idea, since permits were already in place before the lawsuit was filed.

But Dennis Mader, a Wauchula resident and president of 3PR, said not so fast.

“The 90-day stay was meant to preserve the status quo,” Mader told The Fort Meade Leader. “To mine Area 2 would affect adjacent wetlands, the very reason for which we challenged this permit in the first place.”

He also added that “by their (Mosaic’s) own previous arguments, to mine Area 2 would require re-permitting from the state.”

Mosaic described the 700 acres as “uplands” and not wetlands, in its court filing earlier this week.

The plaintiffs also argue that since the court case has currently stayed needed permits for expansion, “there is in effect no permit for Mosaic to comply with.”

Opponents note that the uplands proposal involves land that “surrounds and is immediately adjacent to the jurisdictional wetlands. Mosaic promises to ‘avoid’ the wetlands and not to ‘mine’ them. However, there would be adverse impacts to them.”

In addition, the plaintiffs noted that “any mining activity that affects the soils or subsoils of these adjacent uplands has the potential to alter the timing and volume of groundwater flows to these down-gradient wetlands.”

On Tuesday, Mosaic said it was planning on transitioning its mining operations to these 700 acres in the next 30 to 60 days. A company spokesperson said while mining only the uplands was less efficient than also including the wetlands for mining operations, it would allow them to “keep its workforce employed while it addresses the merits of the litigation.”

It is unclear if and when a court ruling might come on this latest plan.

On Tuesday, Mosaic officials said they didn’t expect a new ruling from the U.S. district court in Jacksonville on the larger lawsuit issue until July.

Mosaic Notifies Court of Mining Additional Uplands at South Fort Meade Mine

PLYMOUTH, Minn., April 19, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ —
The Mosaic Company (NYSE: MOS) announced that it has notified the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida that it plans to conduct uplands-only mining (i.e., non-wetlands) in an area at its South Fort Meade, Florida, phosphate rock mine in Hardee County. This upland area is accessible from the approximately 200-acre area where the Company is currently mining. Mosaic plans to begin transitioning its mining operations into these uplands over the next 30 to 60 days. The South Fort Meade permit for mining wetlands issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is under review by the District Court, as recently ordered by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The Company estimates approximately one to two years of mining potential in this upland area. Although the uplands-only mining will be less efficient than if the Company could also mine the wetlands, this transition will allow the Company to continue to produce phosphate rock and keep its workforce employed while it addresses the merits of the litigation concerning the permit for mining wetlands in the extension of the Company’s South Fort Meade mine into Hardee County. A ruling by the District Court is expected by July 2011.

FL House – Growth Management Bill Would Exempt Phosphate Mining from DRI Process

HB 7129: Growth Management (4/11/2011 PDF)

(t) Any proposed solid mineral mine and any proposed
7767 addition to, expansion of, or change to an existing solid
7768 mineral mine is exempt from this section. Proposed changes to
7769 any previously approved solid mineral mine development-of-
7770 regional-impact development orders having vested rights is not
7771 subject to further review or approval as a development-of-
7772 regional-impact or notice-of-proposed-change review or approval
7773 pursuant to subsection (19), except for those applications
7774 pending as of July 1, 2011, which shall be governed by s.
7775 380.115(2). Notwithstanding the foregoing, however, pursuant to
7776 s. 380.115(1), previously approved solid mineral mine
7777 development-of-regional-impact development orders shall continue
7778 to enjoy vested rights and continue to be effective unless
7779 rescinded by the developer. All local government regulations of
7780 proposed solid mineral mines shall be applicable to any new
7781 solid mineral mine or to any proposed addition to, expansion of,
7782 or change to an existing solid mineral mine.
7783 (u) Notwithstanding any provisions in an agreement with or
7784 among a local government, regional agency, or the state land
7785 planning agency or in a local government’s comprehensive plan to
7786 the contrary, a project no longer subject to development-of-
7787 regional-impact review under revised thresholds is not required
7788 to undergo such review.

S. Ft. Meade Mine Permit Awaits Final Ruling in Jax Fed Court

For Immediate Release – April 11, 2011

Eric E. Huber, Sierra Club Senior Staff Attorney, (303) 449-5595 ext. 101

Atlanta, GA — On April 8, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit vacated a
preliminary injunction on Mosaic’s phosphate mine known as the South Fort Meade
extension. The Court of Appeals found a procedural flaw in the injunction that had been
entered July 30, 2010 by the U.S. District Court in Jacksonville based on violations of the
Clean Water Act. However, the appellate court continued the stay of Mosaic’s permit for
another 90 days and sent the matter back to the district court to make a final ruling in that
Specifically the appellate court’s three page decision found that the district court
should not have remanded the permit to the U.S. Corps of Engineers when it issued its
injunction. The appellate court did not rule on the merits of the permit, i.e. it did not decide
whether the permit was legal or that it complied with the law. “We are disappointed that the
court of appeals did not affirm the injunction in its entirety,” said Eric Huber, Sierra Club
Senior Staff Attorney. “But we are glad that it stayed the permit for another 90 days which
protects the wetlands while we have another hearing in Jacksonville.”
Mosaic’s strip mine would cover 7,687 acres and destroy 534 acres of wetlands, 26
acres of open water and more than 10 miles of streams associated with the headwaters of
the Peace River and other streams. Phosphate strip mining entirely removes the land surface
down 50 or more feet, destroying wetlands and significantly impacting ground and surface
water flow. While surface reclamation occurs in theory, it is substantially delayed, often
unsuccessful and does not repair groundwater impacts. This disruption in flows affects water
quality and quantity in the watersheds involved, including the Peace River which flows into
the Charlotte Harbor Estuary, a federally recognized “aquatic resource of national
The parties reached a partial settlement last November allowing mining to proceed at
Phase 1 of the mine, comprising some 200 acres. In return, Mosaic agreed to protect 14.3
acres of environmentally desirable and difficult to replace “bayhead wetlands,” as well as
surrounding uplands, in the upper Peace River watershed, for a total of 40.9 additional acres
protected from mining.

For more information visit www.ourphosphaterisk.com, and www.protectpeaceriver.org.