The fertilizer production process is a dirty and dangerous business from start to finish. In addition to tearing up hundreds of thousands of acres of habitat in Florida’s heartland to strip mine phosphate ore, the phosphate fertilizer industry is also responsible for creating more than 1 billion tons of a radioactive waste called phosphogypsum, stored in 25 “stacks” throughout Florida.
And now, despite the recent near-environmental disaster at the Piney Point phosphogypsum stack, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is considering plans submitted by Mosaic to expand a gypstack at its New Wales facility.
In 2016 a sinkhole 45 feet wide and hundreds of feet deep opened in the New Wales phosphogypsum stack. For weeks it dumped wastewater and phosphogypsum into the Floridan aquifer before the public was even made aware. At least 215 million gallons of radioactive, toxic wastewater and an unknown amount of phosphogypsum fell into the Floridan aquifer. And that 2016 sinkhole wasn’t the first at this gypstack, either. In 2004 an “anomaly” occurred at the stack, and in 1994 and 2013 other anomalies or sinkholes occurred at the north stack. Yet Mosaic wants to expand the stack by another 230 acres.
Sample Comment Letter
Dear Florida Department of Environmental Protection,
I am adamantly opposed to Mosaic’s New Wales Concentrate Plant permit application to expand the existing phosphogypsum stacks an additional 230 acres. This facility and region of Florida has experienced a host of problems, including the 2016 sinkhole releasing 215 million gallons of process wastewater in the Floridan aquifer; and other anomalies or sinkholes in 1994, 2004, and 2013.
The most alarming point is that this particular area has shown itself to be vulnerable to sinkholes. These documented sinkhole events are warnings that we cannot continue to ignore.
The most recent, entirely predictable phosphogypsum stack failure at Piney Point and the troubling response is a stark reminder that millions of people around Florida are living close to these ticking time bombs.
Until the state and local officials can do a better job of adequately managing the risks, I am opposed to the New Wales Concentrate Plant permit application and ask the Florida Department of Environmental Protection deny Mosaic’s request for expansion.