DeSoto County P&Z Board Deny Mosaic Foothold-May 5, 2010

Nothing less than a historical victory for the Peace River Watershed was won last night!  In an opening volley of what is sure to be an ongoing battle to preserve and protect the Peace River and its attendant watershed and nearby environs, the will of the people was honored.

On Tuesday, May 4th, during a public hearing before the DeSoto County Board of Adjustments and Planning, a diverse group of Floridians, including a courageous 16 year old boy,  an implacable Octogenarian Matriarch, a nationally recognized economist and a local photographer, spoke out in ways simple and complex against the adoption of a General Phosphate Mining Overlay prepared by Mosaic that would have opened the door to eventual strip mining of approximately 26,000 +/- acres in the fragile ecosystem of the Pine Level/Big Slough watersheds.

The wonderful news is that the Board listened attentively enough to the numerous people that spoke against the amendment of the Future Land Use Map, that they voted 5-2 to deny initial transmittal of Mosaic’s request to the Department of Community Affairs!

This important decision will be at the center of further discussion when the DeSoto County Commissioners meet to consider the same proposal on May 25, 2010.

We the People of this region are the only voice the Peace River has.  We have the power and the responsibility to halt the expansion of the ravages of phosphate strip mining that has made an uninhabitable “moonscape” of huge portions of Polk, Hillsborough, Manatee and portions of Hardee Counties.

It up to us to make sure that DeSoto County remains pristine and beautiful and that the unsound mining practices of the multinational conglomerate that is Mosaic, never, ever has the opportunity to creep into DeSoto county to wreak permanent environmental destruction on our River, creeks, farms and groves.

This, our collective and mutual, Home, is precious and unique in Florida.  The Peace River is the lifeblood, the primary artery that feeds and sustains us all.  Let us, each and everyone, whether a public servant or private steward be informed of all the facts available so as to make an informed choice of how our Peace River is sustained and protected for generations to come.

The preservation and protection of a time honored way of life is at stake.  The proposed “mining overlay” that Mosaic has cobbled together with the help of DeSoto County staff, is nothing less than a death warrant for our way of life.

A coalition of several area citizen groups, including Protect Our Watersheds, Sierra Florida, ManaSota-88 and People for Protecting Peace River (3PR) submitted to DeSoto County a 7 page letter, along with a table of 11 Exhibits, that gives an excellent overview of concerns about the impacts of phosphate mining on our environment and on the health and well being of our communities.

Since these documents were submitted to become part of the public record they are available for your inspection.  I urge every Citizen in the area to “Get the Real Story” of the permanent, irreversible destruction of our watershed that a “Phosphate Mining Overlay” would usher in.

You may also review this document and others that pertain to this critical issue on the People for Protecting Peace River website:

Please mark your calendars and tell everyone you know to join you at the next meeting of the DeSoto County Commissioners on Tuesday, May 25, 2010.  Let our voices ring in the halls of our Elected officials: Tell them:  We the People, don’t want phosphate strip mining in DeSoto County!

See you there!

Respectfully submitted:

Genny Lee Hendry

Community Liaison



DeSoto Overlay Letter

This excellent letter was drafted on behalf of a coalition of concerned environmental organizations (Protect our Watersheds, Sierra Florida, Manasota-88, and 3PR) by Percy Angelo of the Sierra Club Phosphate Committee. It was submitted to the Planning and Zoning Commissioners and the Board of County Commissioners of DeSoto County, Florida, in preparing for a series of hearings that would include 26,000 acres of farmland in Desoto County in the Generalized Mining Overlay. This is the first step in preparing for a local mine permit. Anyone interested in a point by point outline of the case against phosphate mine expansion in central Florida should check this out.

EPA Radiation Protection Standards

As a result of the presence of elevated concentrations of radium-226 and other radionuclides in phosphate ores and mining wastes, many individuals residing in Central Florida are exposed to undesirable levels of radiation. In the absence of adequate measures to protect public health, many more could be exposed in the future, depending upon developing mining and land use patterns. The major exposure problem is associated with structures, principally residences, that are constructed on, near, or using radium-bearing materials related to phosphate ores…. In the United States, the phosphate deposits of Florida contain concentrations of uranium and its decay products at levels about 30-60 times greater than those found in average soil and rock. The presence of this radioactive material in extensive land areas in Central and Northern Florida creates the potential for radiation exposure of the general population living on or near this land.

Read the study here:

EPA Radiation Protection Standards

84,000,000 gallons of contaminated water drain into White Springs sinkhole

The state Department of Environmental Protection has created a new Web site to provide up-to-date information on its ongoing sampling and monitoring of the local water supply after 84 million gallons of contaminated water was released in a spill at PCS in White Springs.  This comes after discovery of a sinkhole inside a phosphogypsum stack system at PCS’s Swift Creek Chemical Complex on Dec. 10. The Swift Creek Chemical Complex is located just east of US 41, about 10 miles northwest of White Springs. The stack system stores process wastewater and gypsum resulting from PCS’ phosphate fertilizer manufacturing operations at this site, according to a DEP press release. “Based on site inspections and ongoing collection of monitoring data, it appears that PCS’s production wells are containing the process water on site and not contaminating the aquifer offsite or nearby potable drinking water wells,” according to a DEP press release. “In an abundance of caution DEP has continued its monitoring of the process wells, local private wells and the waters of the Suwannee River.”  The gypsum stack in which the sinkhole formed is about 140 to 150 feet above ground level, according to DEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller. The sinkhole was about 40 to 50 feet in diameter with a depth of at least 100 feet below surface level, said Miller. The deepest production wells are 750-800 feet deep.  “Aerial surveys and exploratory drilling are being conducted to gather information about the depth and geometry of the subsurface opening which will allow more precise measurement and guidance in grouting the sinkhole,” Miller said.  Furthermore, Miller said no processed water was released before PCS was able to turn on its wells.  “PCS already had wells in operation at the time of the formation, additional wells were put into operation within the hour to make sure they were doing everything they could do to capture the release,” said Miller.  Miller confirmed that some broken chunks of gypsum did fall into the sinkhole. Miller also said there is not a synthetic liner beneath the gypsum stack, but rather a natural clay barrier below the stack area. Concerned citizens can now view the new Web page, which provides up-to-date information on DEP’s ongoing sampling and monitoring:  “This new webpage allows us to make the information about these efforts readily available to the public,” said Deputy Secretary for Regulatory Programs, Mimi Drew in a press release. “We want the public to have real-time information and data about our efforts.”  Residents are encouraged to contact DEP directly with questions and concerns at 850-488-8217. Citizens who may be concerned about their drinking water supply can contact the Hamilton County Health Department at 386-792-1414.  Copyright © 1999-2010 cnhi, inc.

By Stephenie Livingston, Reporter January 08, 2010 11:25 am, Suwanee Democrat

24,000 Acres of Phosphate Mines in Desoto County Require Comp Plan Amendment

This is huge! Please Plan to Attend en Masse

Charlotte Sun April 20,2010 – Notice of Public Meeting

Tues. May 4, 2010 5:30pm


Tues. May 25,2010 6:30pm public hearing:

1. LS 010-01  General Phosphate Mining Overlay for future land use Map and Comprehensive Plan – Transmittal
Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC and Desoto County have prepared an application to amendment the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) to create an overlay category identifying lands with a high potential for Phosphate Mining.  Supporting policies regulating density, intensity and permitted uses within the overlay are included as an amendment to the Comprehensive PLan Future Land Use Element text.  The proposed overlay includes lands not owned by Mosaic Fertilizer LLC or their subsidiaries.  The overlay is approx. 24,000 +/- acres and located west of the Peace River and the city limits of Arcadia and covers an area to the Manatee/DeSoto County line, often referred to as the PINE LEVEL area.  Portions of the overlay are approx. 3 miles or greater north of SR70 and approx. 2 miles south of SR72.  A map showing the general location is provided herein  A legal description is on file with the application in the Planning Department office.

Hardee County Commissioners Hand Over 3600 Acres of Citrus Groves to Mosaic

On April 1st, while most residents of this county were sitting down to their evening meal, the Hardee County Planning and Zoning Board and Board of County Commissioners amended our county Comprehensive Plan Mining Overlay to include 3600 acres of producing citrus groves for future phosphate strip mining. By the time your meal was over it was a done deal, and the county’s agricultural base was further eroded. I attended this hearing and felt both saddened and outraged by what I witnessed there….

First of all, it seems that a joint meeting of the two boards is a privilege reserved only for the pleasure of the phosphate mining industry. Any other party seeking an amendment or special exception to the Comprehensive Plan has to meet with both boards individually and in succession. Once a party has the approval of the Planning and Zoning Board they then have to take their case before the Board of Commissioners…  but not the phosphate industry. Mosaic enjoys the presence of both boards at the same meeting. In this way they can save the expense of having to pay their consultants to present their case more than once, with the added benefit of expediting the whole process in one evening before the public really knows what just happened or can prepare to do anything about it.

In fact that evening another party did appear before planning and zoning for a special exception to locate a double-wide mobile home on a lot. According to that individual it was a two-year process just to fulfill the requirements necessary to appear before the board. The board deliberated on his request and asked more questions than they subsequently would ask in regard to Mosaic’s request to include 3600 acres of active citrus groves to the mining overlay. When the request for the double-wide was finally granted, the individual was told he would need to return at a later date for approval by the County Commission.

I would add here that the Planning and Zoning Board announced that the process of granting a special exception for the double-wide was a quasi-judicial hearing, and that all parties who testified would have to take an oath. This formality was ignored during the second phase of the hearing when the two boards considered Mosaic’s request for a comp plan amendment. No one, including Mosaic’s consultants and representatives, was sworn to tell the truth – a convenient omission which subsequently proved to be greatly advantageous to them before the hearing adjourned.

Mosaic’s case was presented by a Lakeland consulting firm called Kimley-Horn. It lasted about 15 minutes and consisted of about ten slides showing various maps and quoting those aspects of the comp plan which supported their case. At the end of the presentation there were neither questions nor comments by either of the two Hardee County boards.

When comments were allowed from the public I took the lectern and brought to the attention of the boards that Comprehensive Plan Policy C4.1 provides not only for the “protection of areas suitable for extraction of phosphate rock” (as the consultant quoted), but also says, “These provisions shall also protect other land uses from adverse effects of mining operations.”

Since 87% the 3600 acres of land in question were productive citrus groves I also brought to the attention of the commissions the Land Use Suitability Index prepared by the Central Florida Regional Planning Council and adopted by Hardee County in 2002. Only 3 of the five county commissioners professed to have any familiarity with the study. The study points out that: “According to SWFMWD’s 1999-2000 land use/land cover mapping, of the estimated 48,775 acres of mined soils in Hillsborough and Polk counties, only 675 acres (just over 1%) are in citrus.” The study concludes: “… that future land use patterns, in particular the ability to support various types of commercial agriculture and urban development, may be substantially altered as a result of large-scale phosphate mining in Hardee County.”

I also introduced to the commissioners a March 10, 2010, letter from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calling for an area-wide EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) to address “extensive cumulative impacts” to the Peace River watershed. According to the EPA letter: “The Area Wide EIS could assess the cumulative and secondary (indirect) impacts associated with the redevelopment of former phosphate mining lands into subdivisions, recreational facilities, and commercial/retail uses. The EIS could assess potential radiation issues associated with post-mining lands… An Area Wide EIS could provide an analysis of which these sites may present increased levels of radiation exposure.”

Following my comments one planning commissioner, Gordon Norris, asked the Mosaic representative: “Do you know of a study that might occur for the South Fort Meade Mine Extension?” Mike DeNeve, permit superintendant for Mosaic, answered by saying, “… the letter that Mr. Mader quoted from did not specifically say that EPA is requesting that this study be done before the South Fort Meade Mine is permitted. That’s not what it says at all….”

Indeed the letter I quoted says: “The need for such an EIS has once again been brought to our attention because of issues identified during the review of Mosaic Fertilizer’s request for a 21-year permit to mine phosphate at the South Fort Meade Mine Extension….” A letter from the EPA to the Army Corp of Engineers dated January 15, 2010 said specifically, “EPA recommended denial of the proposed project (South Fort Meade Mine Extension) in letters dated July 26, 2007 and August 23, 2007, because the proposed project did not comply with various requirements of the Guidelines.”

Jim Mercer, a resident of Norris Road, also rose to remind the commission that there is not only existing agricultural but residential land-use as well adjacent to the proposed 3600 parcel that requires protection from the adverse effects of phosphate mining.

Despite his concerns and the information I brought to the commissioners, Mosaic’s request for a comp plan amendment was passed unanimously by both boards with the exception of Roger Conley, vice-chairman of the Planning and Zoning Board, who cast the only dissenting vote.

All EPA letters quoted in this letter and the Soil Suitability Index are available in their entirety on-line at

Dennis Mader


(This letter was published in the April 14, 2010 edition of the Wauchula Herald-Advocate)

EPA Recommendation for Areawide EIS

The EPA reiterates its recommendation that the Army Corps of Engineers order an ‘area-wide Environmental Impact Statement before issuing a 404 Dredge and Fill permit for the South Fort Meade Mine Hardee County Extension (10,885 acres). The environmental community and various counties have been calling for this study for 18 years. It would require the mining industry to account for all past, present, and future impacts on the Peace River basin – including clay waste disposal, radio-activity on reclaimed land, and phosphogypsum stacks.

Read it here: EPA Recommendation for Areawide EIS

COE Purpose and Need Letter

Protect Our Watersheds, 3PR, Manasota-88, Gulf Restoration Network and Sierra Club specify their case to the Corps of Engineers for ordering the phosphate mining industry to commission an area-wide Environmental Impact Statement. The case includes recent court decisions, prior and similar instances, USGS data, the failure of the FDEP to protect the environment, and other cogent reasons to conduct the study. This is essential reading to those who seek a broad understanding of the negative impacts of phosphate strip mining in central Florida.

Read it here: COE Purpose and Need letter(Final)

EPA Sets Scope for Mining Study

EPA Sets Scope for Mining Study

Charlotte Sun

March 17, 2010

‘Sensitive’ area needs impact study, says chief

Calling the Peace River watershed an “important and environmentally sensitive mining region,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency again called for a comprehensive regional impact study on phosphate strip mining within the watershed this week.

The EPA has long advocated an Area-Wide Environmental Impact Study for the Bone Valley phosphate reserve, but Mosaic Fertilizer’s request for a 21-year permit to strip mine its 11,000-acre South Fort Meade Extension triggered the agency to renew that call, wrote Thomas Welborn, chief of the EPA’s wetlands, coastal and oceans branch.

His March 10 letter was written to Col. Alfred A. Pantano Jr., district engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which grants permits for wetland impacts.

The EPA and dozens of environmental groups, political leaders, local governments and residents have been requesting the study for more than a decade. But to date, the corps has denied the requests.

The EPA’s latest letter serves as a follow-up to one sent by the EPA Dec. 15, which said Mosaic’s application for permits to mine the South Fort Meade Extension, located on the Peace River near Fort Meade, falls short in wetlands mitigation. In that letter, the EPA also called for the areawide study.

“(The) EPA is interested in developing a new approach in 404 permit review, to include consideration of overall cumulative impacts within the Bone Valley, rather than incremental review of permits and their associated impacts,” Welborn wrote. “We would like to do this in cooperation and partnership with the ACOE.”

The ACOE has not had a chance to review the EPA’s letter or prepare a response, said Chuck Schnepel, chief of permitting for the corps’ Jacksonville-based district. He declined further comment.

Jim Cooper of Protect Our Watershed, which has lobbied for the study, called the EPA’s letter “a milestone.”

“For a long time, EPA officials have referenced an EIS, but this is much more comprehensive,” he said. “It would be projectwide, studying phosphate mining throughout the Bone Valley, past, present and future.

“It’s very important they knit this tapestry of impacts together and understand, with several of these mines operating simultaneously, these impacts need to be accumulated and taken into account.”

Russell Schweiss, Mosaic’s manager of public affairs, said: “Let’s be clear on one point: The industry has no control over a decision to conduct an Area-Wide EIS. It’s not our call and never has been.

“That said, our consistent position has been that we don’t object to the concept of an Area-Wide EIS, as long as it looks at all impacts, not just the phosphate industry. We don’t see how a study of environmental impacts can be scientifically valid without looking at impacts such as urbanization, development and other land uses that, in many cases, have a far greater footprint in the region.”

Welborn pointed out the EPA has designated the Peace River Watershed as an Aquatic Resource of National Importance. Florida also has declared the river a Priority Watershed.

That indicates both governments have agreed to restore its impaired waters and protect them from further impacts, Welborn wrote.

He also pointed out the Peace provides water to the Charlotte Harbor estuary and 700,000 residents.

Welborn suggested the study determine:

* How mining and other developments will affect compliance with Total Maximum Daily Load limits for pollutants such as phosphorus and nitrogen, which are big factors in the Peace’s impairment.

* What impacts are caused by the giant berms, stacks of phosphogypsum waste and stockpiles of ore created by the phosphate industry.

* Whether the future redevelopment of reclaimed mines into subdivisions, shopping centers or recreational sites will pose impacts or radiation hazards.

Welborn also expressed support for the ACOE’s recent suggestion to convene a “phosphate summit” to address the impacts.



Staff Writer

New Altman Tract Photos

Below are some recent photographs of the Four Corners phosphate mine (Altman Tract) – located at the intersection of State Roads 62 and 37 – about 25 miles south of Mulberry. Mosaic fought Manatee County for 8 years to mine these wetlands that are the remaining headwaters of Horse Creek, a major tributary of the Peace River. The Manatee County Commission, upon recommendation for their staff, first denied the Development Order. Mosaic threatened to sue Manatee County for $675,000,000. After an election when two new commissioners were seated, Manatee County capitulated and approved the development order in a revote. Now the only thing standing between the phosphate giant and the mining of these precious wetlands is a Federal lawsuit of the Army Corps of Engineers by Sierra Club, 3PR, Manasota – 88, and the Gulf Restoration Coalition.

The photos were taken by George Chase from an experimental light sport plane.