Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Environmental groups sue federal agencies over effects of phosphate mining

An aerial of a massive sinkhole that earlier this month opened up underneath a gypsum stack at a Mosaic phosphate fertilizer plant in Mulberry dumped at least 215 million gallons of contaminated water into the Floridan aquifer in August. Concerns about that sinkhole, in part, promoted environmental groups to sue federal agencies in federal court over the effects of phosphate mining. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]

An aerial of a massive sinkhole that earlier this month opened up underneath a gypsum stack at a Mosaic phosphate fertilizer plant in Mulberry dumped at least 215 million gallons of contaminated water into the Floridan aquifer in August. Concerns about that sinkhole, in part, promoted environmental groups to sue federal agencies in federal court over the effects of phosphate mining. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]

Four environmental groups filed suit Wednesday against the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for authorizing 50,000 acres of phosphate mining in central Florida that the groups said violates the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.

The suit, filed in Tampa federal court, takes aim at the two federal agencies over their approval of three new mines and the expansion of a fourth one in Manatee, Hardee and DeSoto counties.

Meanwhile, residents of two Lakeland subdivisions recently sued their development company, Drummond Co. of Alabama, for not disclosing the radiation risk of building homes atop former phosphate mining property.

That suit, also filed in Tampa federal court, says the homeowners now face the same radiation risk as someone who gets a chest X-ray every week.

So far no trial date has been set for either lawsuit, and neither one targets a phosphate company.

The lawsuit over mining focuses on a 2013 study published by the Army Corps that said creating those mines will destroy nearly 10,000 acres of wetlands and 50 miles of streams, causing a "significant impact.

But the study — prepared for the Army Corps by a consultant paid by the phosphate industry — contended miners would do such a good job of making up for the damage, through a multi-decade process called mitigation, that the impact would eventually not be noticeable. The study did not specify what sort of mitigation would be involved.

"Without mitigation, a lot of the effects would be significant — on wetlands, on groundwater, on surface water," Corps senior project manager John Fellows said at the time. "No question about it, mining is an impactive industry."

In the suit, the environmental groups called that study "incomplete and unlawfully insufficient" basis for the federal agency to approve the four mining permits.

The permits were all for one company, Mosaic. Mosaic spokeswoman Jackie Barron said the environmental groups' claims "are without merit; and their lawsuit threatens the jobs of thousands of Floridians ... The federal permits were issued following the most comprehensive environmental review process in the history of our industry."

The Army Corps referred questions to the Justice Department, which declined to comment. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also declined to comment.

The groups that sued are the Center for Biological Diversity, People for Protecting Peace River, ManaSota-88 and Suncoast Waterkeeper.

Last month, despite vocal public opposition, the Manatee County Commission approved a zoning change to accommodate Mosaic's mining expansion there. Much of the opposition focused on Mosaic's initial public silence about a sinkhole that opened up in one of its Mulberry phosphogypsum stacks, dumping 215 million gallons of contaminated water into the aquifer.

So far, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, no tests have shown that the contaminated water has traveled beyond Mosaic's borders.

Environmental groups sue federal agencies over effects of phosphate mining 03/16/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 5:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Fifth worker from TECO molten slag accident dies

    Public Safety

    The June 29 accident at the Tampa Electric Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach claimed a fifth life on Thursday.

    A fifth worker died following a June 29 accident at Tampa Electric's Big Bend Power Station. Anthony Perez, 56, an employee of BRACE Industrial Group, died Thursday. [LUIS SANTANA   |   TIMES]
  2. Review: 'Midnight, Texas' overloads on supernatural, lacks luster

    Blogs

    There is a cemetery full of great supernatural shows out there. Unfortunately, Midnight, Texas isn't one of them.

    Parisa Fitz-Henley, center, and Francois Arnaud in Midnight, Texas.
  3. Ready to go it alone? Tips for easing into solo travel

    Travel

    Since 2012, Kristin Addis has been traveling the world. More often than not, she's solo.

    Travel author Kristin Addis takes soloness to another level at Dead Horse State Park in Utah. Before you book an international trip, try starting small to test the waters.
  4. O.J. Simpson makes case for his freedom on live TV

    Crime

    LOVELOCK, Nev. — A gray-haired O.J. Simpson went before a Nevada parole board Thursday to plead for release after more than eight years in prison for a Las Vegas hotel room heist, making his case in a nationally televised hearing that reflected America's enduring fascination with the former football star.

    Former NFL football star O.J. Simpson appears via video for his parole hearing at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nev., on Thursday.  Simpson was convicted in 2008 of enlisting some men he barely knew, including two who had guns, to retrieve from two sports collectibles sellers some items that Simpson said were stolen from him a decade earlier. [Lovelock Correctional Center via AP]
  5. Girl says her mom asked for forgiveness before stabbing her

    Crime

    ATLANTA — Everyone was asleep when Isabel Martinez began stabbing her children and then fatally stabbed her husband as he tried seek help, her daughter told a child welfare caseworker.

    In a  July 7 file photo, Isabel Martinez gestures towards news cameras during her first court appearance, in Lawrenceville , Ga. Martinez is charged with killing four of her children and their father. [AP Photo/John Bazemore, File]