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. Rays acquire slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from Marlins

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chaim Bloom said the Rays weren't necessarily in the market for a shortstop. The team has a number of those. But when the Marlins recently began shopping Adeiny Hechavarria, well, that was too much to pass up.

    Adeiny Hechavarria has emerged as one of baseball’s top defensive shortstops in the past three seasons with the Marlins.
  2. Lightning journal: Forward Yanni Gourde agrees to two-year deal

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Just three years ago, Yanni Gourde was fighting to stay in pro hockey.

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde celebrates after scoring against the Florida Panthers during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA108
  3. Fennelly: About time Dave Andreychuk makes Hockey Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    It's Andy's time.

    And it's about time.

    Former Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk has been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. He had been eligible since 2009, a ridiculously long wait for someone who scored 640 goals, including a record 274 on the power play.

    LEFT: Dave Andreychuk talks at the podium as he is honored with a statue in front of the now-Amalie Arena.
  4. British government says 75 out of 75 buildings failed fire safety tests

    World

    LONDON — Britain on Monday confronted a rapidly growing fire safety crisis after tests of the exterior cladding on dozens of public housing towers revealed a 100 percent failure rate, raising fears that this month's deadly inferno in London could be repeated elsewhere.

    Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali, presents his first Chrono-Hologram in Paris, France, in 1973. A Spanish judge on Monday June 26, 2017, has ordered the remains of artist Salvador Dali to be exhumed following a paternity suit by a woman named by Europa Press agency as Pilar Abel, 61 from the nearby city of Girona. Dali, considered one of the fathers of surrealism in art, died in 1989 and is buried in his museum in the northeastern town of Figueres. [Associated Press]
  5. Man convicted of second-degree murder in killing of Baby Doe, his girlfriend's daughter

    Nation

    BOSTON — A man was convicted Monday of murder in the death of a 2-year-old girl who became known as Baby Doe after her remains washed up on the shore of a Boston Harbor island.

    Michael McCarthy’s friend Michael Sprinsky, far left, gets a hug from sister Laura Sprinsky after McCarthy is found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Bella Bond, who became known as Baby Doe.