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Bone Valley Phosphate Mines

Over the past seventy years, Florida’s phosphate industry let many man-made severe environmental accidents occur one after another over the years, causing serious environmental impacts to pristine “one of a kind” ecological regions of Florida. The Florida taxpayers are also paying for the court costs, attorney fees, and the like while the court battles continue daily between federal and state environmental agencies versus Florida’s industry officials.

Lithia Springs - Spring Opening

(Fig. 1) Lithia Springs- Spring Opening


The Peace River watershed lies in west central Florida about forty miles east of the Tampa Bay area. Florida’s Peace River was declared an “endangered river” by “American Rivers.org,” a non-profit organization committed to protecting and restoring North American rivers.

The central Florida region holds unique pristine watersheds, marshlands, bogs, and other freshwater naturally occurring filtering systems. Watersheds are areas of land with waterways that flow to a common destination. Most of the region's drinking water is pumped from aquifers that are “recharged” from the watersheds described above.
Peace River Spring Fed Tributary(Fig. 3) Peace River Spring Fed Tributary

Florida IPR Survey

Florida Residence Take FIPR Survey on the Phosphate Industry Practices

Do Florida’s residents know about the phosphate industries abysmal practice of destroying Florida’s geographical environment for the phosphate some 40 feet beneath the surface?

The Florida Institute of Phosphate Research, (4) (FIPR) funded a survey conducted by the University of South Florida. The FIPR survey questions were all related to public awareness and attitudes apropos the Florida phosphate industry’s appalling environmental practices. Unfortunately, the Florida phosphate strip mining industry’s continuing environmental devastation is not a topic of interest for Florida’s local politicians and the local media as well. Little is said publicly about the irreparable damage caused by Florida’s phosphate strip mining industry.

The FIPR survey results show 70% of Florida’s residences do not know of the destruction of Florida’s aquifer systems by the local phosphate industry, because they are not being informed on the topic. The local media rarely releases any information on the subject. The survey revealed 2.3% of Florida’s residence says they do understand Florida’s phosphate mining dilemma.

This survey’s results are based on a sample survey of 1300 residence from four different geographical regions within Florida. These regions include the Florida panhandle, the Tampa Bay area west and south to Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Florida’s panhandle has very little phosphate and a small mining community. The FIPR survey shows this area has very little environmental aquifer system destruction due to phosphate strip mining.

However, the Tampa bay area and south into Manatee and Sarasota counties surround ground zero for the phosphate strip mining industry in Florida. Interestingly, most of the sinkholes also form in the counties surrounding ground zero. Ground zero is being defined as the Peace River Watershed, where most of the Florida phosphate strip mines are located.

The FIPR survey shows about 85% of 2.3% informed respondents were able to name at least one environmental problem caused by Florida’s phosphate strip mining industry. Water and wildlife were the most common concerns from most respondents. Florida residents in or near the phosphate mining regions are more likely to say they are informed about the environmental bomb shell caused by the Florida phosphate industry. The FIPR survey shows Florida’s residence as a whole in and around ground zero are not knowledgeable about the phosphate strip mining industry, (5) Tampa Bay Times.

Phosphate Giant Mosaic Pumps Daily from Florida's Aquifer Systems

Last year, a Florida state water agency granted the world's largest phosphate mining company permits to pump up to 70 million gallons of water a day out of Florida’s aquifer systems for the next 20 years. By the way, Florida’s politicians seem to be lying low and following the money. “Much” of those millions of gallons of water are wasted by the phosphate giant known as Mosaic to dilute phosphate waste so it can be dumped into creeks without violating Department of Environmental Protection, (DEP) state regulations. This means, the amount of phosphate waste per mass, dumped into Florida’s creeks, streams, and rivers is the same, only a greater water volume dilutes the phosphate waste enough to meet the state standards. The FIPR shows Florida residences hear little from their state officials or from Florida’s phosphate strip mining industry.

The unprecedented permit allows Mosaic to pump water from more than 250 wells in Hillsborough, Manatee, Polk, Hardee and De Soto counties. Interestingly, the residences in these counties are under strict water restrictions and have been since 1992.

"The water use is crazy," said a St. Petersburg attorney who challenged the Mosaic permit for his client who ended up settling out of court. Florida’s phosphate strip mining industry is pumping untold amounts of clear clean fresh aquifer water to discharge with their waste. Forever destroying Florida’s aquifer systems as they go.

The phosphate industry removes waste in this manner as a standard practice, according to Mosaic's environmental superintendent. It's allowed under the state Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) rules, said the Southwest Florida Water Management District, (Swiftmud). “Without that fresh water to dilute what Mosaic is discharging would violate the DEP's limits on a type of pollution called "conductivity," Swiftmud officials explained. Conductivity refers to the solids that are left in the waste after it's processed. "If they were exceeding the standards, the DEP would not allow the discharge," explained Swiftmud, the agency issuing the Mosaic permits.

The unprecedented permit allows Mosaic to pump water from more than 250 wells in Hillsborough, Manatee, Polk, Hardee and De Soto counties. Interestingly, the residences in these counties are under strict water restrictions and have been since 1992.

Mosaic spokesman said the company is only using fresh aquifer water for dilution with waste from inactive processing plants, which Mosaic said complies with DEP rules. No list of plants or discharge sites could be provided or how many sites there are. The diluted waste is discharged, "…usually into a creek or smaller water body that feeds into a larger one at some point," the Mosaic spokesperson said.

The issue of how much aquifer water Mosaic pumps out of Florida’s aquifer systems was explored by a recent environmental impact study on phosphate mining that was commissioned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The report found that the phosphate strip mining industry’s' water use in some areas could lower the aquifer water level by up to 10 feet, but contended the aquifer would eventually recover when the pumping stopped. However, the pumping started in 1992 and continues as of this writing.

The same agency that issued Mosaic's water permit, Swiftmud, declared a 5,100-square-mile area covering all or part of eight counties south of US Interstate-4 to be the Southern Water Use Caution Area in 1992. The reason: so much water had been pumped out of Florida’s aquifer systems in the region that the water table had fallen 50 feet.

Mosaic previously had a permit that allowed it to take up to 99 million gallons a day from Florida’s aquifer systems, illustrating the permit issued last year is a reduction. As of last month, the phosphate strip mining giant was pumping 30 million of its allotted 70 million gallons a day out of the ground,” Swiftmud officials said. “Half of that was being used in the mining process and the other half was being used at production facilities, said Swiftmud officials. They also said, no one could specify how much aquifer water is being pumped to dilute the pollution from “phosphate” plants, a process the industry prefers to call blending.

In approving the Mosaic permit, Swiftmud officials ruled that the Mosaic had offered reasonable assurances that its use of the water isn't wasteful and won't adversely affect downstream users or the environment. The ruling by Swiftmud along with the above mentioned data regarding water usage and pollutants, surely demonstrates Florida’s politicians are ignoring the environmental impact caused by Florida’s phosphate strip mining industry. Has anyone questioned whether Swiftmud or Mosaic have ever considered coming up with a different way to deal with the pollution?

By repeatedly pumping millions of gallons of water from Florida’s aquifer systems just for blending, the company will leave behind "a Swiss cheese aquifer with pools of groundwater contamination and cascades of diluted gyp stack waste for generations.

This type of tremendous environmental impact never seems to reach the local media or the local environmental protection organizations, even though all the information is readily available for all who seek. Florida’s phosphate strip mining industry’s severe environmental impact grows more ominous every day. West Central Florida’s aquifer systems are in danger of becoming extinct.

Florida’s phosphate industry is aggressively pumping out Florida’s aquifer water, destabilizing the limestone bedrock surface and contributing to the growing number of sinkholes, (1) (USGS). The sinkhole insurance claims processed have tripled according to (3) Businessweek, in west central Florida. The west central Florida area is directly adjacent to the largest phosphate strip mines in the state, (2) Live Science www.livescience.com.

(1) The United States Geological Survey, (USGS) (2) Live Science www.livescience.com (3) Businessweek (4) Florida Institute of Phosphate Research (5) Tampa Bay Times


Central Florida's groundwater and aquifers are becoming extinct by watershed destruction via phosphate strip mining operations. Florida's natural watersheds, known to the Florida phosphate mining industry as phosphate overburden, are being destroyed for the beginnings of a phosphate strip mine. Where is the balance between Florida politics, industry, and the Public?

Phosphate Rock

An aquifer is contained in the sub-surface encased in a body of saturated rock which also contain caverns and watersheds.

In this case the rock is limestone based, through which water can easily be contained and also move as though it is in a sub-surface river.

Aquifers must be both permeable and porous and include such rock types as sandstone, conglomerate, fractured limestone and unconsolidated sand and gravel. This type of earthen material contains enough drinking water for millions of Florida's citizens year after year.

Central Florida is made of just such a rock landscape and truley does contain everyone's fresh water resources.

However, phosphate officials are "permitted" by the state of Florida to remove everything mentioned above "containing" everyone's freshwater resources in very large tracts of land, measured in square miles, to reach the valuable phosphate rock they seek.