Events Calendar

Current Weather

Manatee Road Watch

Eat Here - Gulf Coast Cookery Sean Tampa Bay yacht Management Bills Discount Center - New & used Furnature, Appliances and More!

The Bradenton Times Polls

Poll Question: Do you agree with an Administrative Law Judge's recommended order to stop Pat Neal's planned destruction of Perico Island mangroves to build his planned 4-home Harbor Sound development?

 Yes  No More polls »

Change Text Size: Larger  Smaller

News Section: Opinion

Mosaic's Rubber Stamp Still has Plenty of Ink

Published Thursday, February 21, 2013 12:10 am

The county commission's most recent concession to the Mosaic Company demonstrates just how good the phosphate giant has it here in Manatee. If it can't quite push through everything it wants when applying for a major expansion, like the one it received permission for last June, it can just come back later and collect it piecemeal, the same way land developers have been doing for years. All the two interests have to do is make sure the dais remains full of friendly faces.

On Tuesday, Manatee County Commissioners voted 5-2 to approve major changes to Mosaic's mining permit at its Wingate Creek mine in northeast Manatee County. This came as a surprise to no one. The Manatee BOCC has been very phosphate-friendly, especially in the last five years, and anyone who follows the board could have predicted the outcome.

When the company came before the BOCC to permit the additional 600-plus acre extension last year, it met with staunch opposition, passing 4-3 after lengthy and heated debate. Two of those three commissioners opposed to the expansion last year, remain on the board – Michael Gallen and Robin DiSabatino. The two new members, Betsy Benac and Vanessa Baugh, were, perhaps not coincidentally, the biggest cheerleaders of Tuesday's vote. Each heaped lavish praise on the company and one after the other, motioned each of the actions required. Both commissioners received support from Mosaic in their races.

Mosaic and other phosphate mining companies are having to creatively find ways to mine more phosphate without new wetland permits. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is not permitting new operations until it completes an environmental impact study of phosphate mining in central Florida. The most obvious way to get around that is to look for places on existing sites, which may not be as attractive under normal circumstances, but are still profitable to exploit given the absence of new ones.

Mining phosphates leaves behind a toxic substance called phosphogypsum, a radioactive by-product of processing the phosphate, for which no safe use has been found. After half a century of prolific mining, dozens of “gypsum stacks” line the Florida landscape, and acidic wastewater sits in lined ponds, which sometimes tear, allowing millions of gallons of hazardous discharge to spill into local waters.

The mining operations also produce plenty of fluoride gases. In the past, these gases escaped into the air and poisoned surrounding agriculture and livestock. Pollution control technology like wet scrubbers have helped to contain the fluoride, but it still needs to be disposed of afterward. That's where you come in. While the FDA has never approved fluoride ingestion for medical use, your body acts as a free filtration system when municipalities like Manatee County and the City of Bradenton buy the toxin from Mosaic with hundreds of thousands of dollars of your tax money. It then gets dumped into your drinking water, ostensibly to prevent cavities – a practice that's been said to be as nonsensical as drinking sunscreen lotion in order to ward off a sunburn.

That's not even the worst part. Phosphate mining relies on millions upon millions of gallons of our water each day, further jeopardizing our ability to meet drinking water and agricultural demands in the near future. The cost to the company for being allowed to pump about 70 million gallons each day was two $750 permits. Compare that to the $160 million spent on a desalination plant in Hillsborough County, which produces only 20 million gallons a day (and is only needed because mining is sucking so much water from their aquifer), and you can see how water is yet another way that an otherwise unsustainable industry is subsidized by the public's tax dollars, all in the name of about four jobs per-acre mined.

Yes, that's right. In addition to being one of the dirtiest and thirstiest enterprises going, phosphate mining is also one of the least labor-intensive industries out there, despite the vast amount of resources it consumes or damages. In fact, there has been a direct correlation between the counties in Florida that do the most mining and high levels of unemployment and poverty. You won't see any of this in Mosaic's rosy commercials about feeding the world's starving children. You won't see any moonscapes or gypsum stacks either; just lush, green fields and shiny, happy people.

These multi-million dollar PR campaigns not only shine the public perception as to what the company does, but also provide hefty accounts (and potential conflicts of interest) for the media outlets that carry them. Government boards on the other hand are much less expensive to influence. Last June, Mosaic saved over $5 million on a single vote. Then-Commissioner Joe McClash, asked that the approval of the extension be amended to include $103,000 per acre of wetland destroyed – the county's going rate. It failed 4-3.

It's clear that any idea that the county might secure something for its citizens beyond access to an infinite supply of fluoride with which to lace the water, each time it gives up something as precious as wetlands, is even more quaint today than it was 10 months ago. It's also clear that Commissioners DiSabatino and Gallen are likely to face well-financed opposition when they come up for reelection in 2014. The rubber stamp is loaded with ink, but squeaky wheels draw attention to inconvenient truths.



Editorial: Water: The Hidden Tax on Phosphate Mining

Published Thursday, September 8, 2011 2:10 am


Dennis Maley's column appears every Thursday and Sunday in The Bradenton Times. He can be reached at Click here to visit his column archive. You can also follow Dennis on Facebook. Sign up for a free email subscription and get The Bradenton Times' Thursday Weekly Recap and Sunday Edition delivered to your email box each week at no cost.

Join the conversation post Facebook comments here or on our site at the bottom of article.


  In Addition to Facebook Comments You Can Also Post Comments Below

Non-Facebook Comments:

The first thing that any visitor from a third world country appreciates about the USA is our abundance of fresh water. BOCC and phosphate is rapidly killing SW Fl.
Posted by Ron smith on February 24, 2013

Another masterful piece! Go gallen and disabatino. We'll remember you in two years when they roll out Gwen Brown again or dig up some new puppet and come after you guys with smear campaigns. The media's gotta keep drawing attention to this so people know how to vote!
Posted by Arnold Price on February 22, 2013

The litany of negative environmental impacts from phosphate strip mining is barely touched upon in this fine editorial. Consider for example clay waste disposal sites which dominate all phosphate mines for decades after the mining is done - forever really, since groundwater recharge and native soils are permanently altered. Not to mention that all their chemical reagents are discharged with the clay - 100's of 1000's of tons annually. Toxic waste disposal is what it amounts to, but they're called "clay settling areas."
Posted by Dennis Mader on February 22, 2013

Maybe theses commissioners should have to live with the Draglines as close as 500 feet from there home, and when the boom turns toward your home, it is much closer since the boom is around 300 feet long, and when they put the rear closer to you the noise is unreal.
This article hits the nail on the head, but as good as it is, it would take a series of books to cover the impacts to Florida, several rivers are headed to extinction fast and some major tributaries are only faint history, like several mining towns that have bit the dust thanks to mining.
Posted by Frank Kirkland on February 21, 2013

As the old saying goes, "Only God can make a tree," only God can make a wetland. I know government is supposed to be separate from religion, but I hope those voting in favor of Mosaic (over and over again) keep in mind, man is great, but not that great. It takes a lot more than shifting dirt and planting a few shrubs to make a wetland.
Posted by Kathy Morrison on February 21, 2013

Click here to add a Non-Facebook comment to this page

 Sign up for our free news subscription - a great way to stay informed!

News World Round UpSports Roundup

Manatee Rural Health Certificate


Name Date
Natacha Charles June 24, 2015
Emilie McAlevy June 20, 2015
Emilita Kropf July 3, 2015
Alice Cosby July 5, 2015
Rick Kinyon July 3, 2015
William Sanderson _
Albert Kight July 1, 2015
Thomas Presha June 28, 2015
Ralph Senzamici June 26, 2015
All Obituaries

Copyright © 2009 - 2015 | The Bradenton Times | More than just an Online Newspaper |
405 26 Avenue Bradenton, FL 34205
Phone: 941-896-7857 - Privacy Policy - RSS Feed
Template provided by Free CSS Templates