Manatee County located on the Gulf of Mexico in west central Florida is home to one of the largest ecosystems of its kind in the world. This area is one of the largest wetlands in the region and forms headwaters to rivers in the area supplying about fifteen percent of the water flow in the Peace River basin. This particular region of Florida is used for fresh water reserves, cattle, agriculture, and newly populated residential neighborhoods. This ecologically critical region is populated with pristine rivers, creeks, springs, aquifers, ponds, and lakes. (1) Both floras and fauna flourish in these unique environmental habitats, from abundant marine life to healthy populations of deer, possibly bears, wild hogs, along with a host of other wildlife.
However, the phosphate industry decided to buy this land with intentions to strip mine this region of central Florida, despite industries poor environmental conservation record over the last seven decades. Strip mining will destroy and plunder these regions of central Florida for the phosphate just beneath the surface. All that was mentioned previously will be extinct in the strip mined areas. There will be no freshwater, no cattle pastures, no agriculture, no marine life, no springs, no aquifers, no wild animals, no floras and no fauna. The only thing leftover from strip mining the land is radioactive materials, caustics, acids, and destroyed landscapes that look more like a lunar landscape. The abandoned phosphate strip mining poisons mentioned above will be there for decades to come, or until Florida’s taxpayers pay for the cleanup costs. Phosphate strip mining has no environmentally redeemable qualities. Historically, industry officials are not environmentally trustworthy, carry out clandestine toxic dumping of millions of tons of toxic waste, and build their business models on scrupulous business practices.
This particular area of central Florida is area where Florida’s phosphate industry decided to strip mine for the valuable phosphate ore in the area. The phosphate industry officials stated their confidence to the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA in the ability to reclaim the land to support a beneficial use after mining operations end. Interestingly, the EPA issued permits, but Manatee County officials required more details about the project and delayed strip mining for the time being. Each permit requested by the phosphate officials were denied on two occasions by Manatee County after the EPA issued the permits to start mining. Manatee and Sarasota Counties and countless smaller suits against the phosphate industry continue to battle for central Florida’s environmental health from being destroyed for phosphate.
Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, DEP, stated the plans submitted for strip mining did not provide accurate information, no proof of financial responsibility, and no acceptable reclamation policy. These particular items are of interest because the phosphate industry historically leaves all the environmental havoc they produce for the taxpayers to cover cleanup costs. (2) Manatee County denied the permits were denied and forced phosphate industry officials back to court. The state of Florida along with manatee County will hold phosphate industry officials from new strip mining in Manatee County until all required reports are filed for review and approved by the county. After all, the phosphate industry already forced Manatee County taxpayers to cover the cost to remove an abandoned phosphate fertilizer plant near the Port of Manatee at a cost of 144 million dollars.
Manatee County is fighting a losing battle due to financial hardships (without federal dollars) with phosphate officials over new strip mining in the Myakka River watershed, which is also one of the largest watersheds in the state. The 2500 acres of watershed adjacent to present day mining in the Myakka watershed is where the eight year environmental court battle will play out.
Florida’s phosphate industry is a financial juggernaut which will not stop strip mining in Florida until it is financially detrimental to do so. Florida’s citizens can help state environmentalist too with their votes and their funding. Central Florida environmental resources like Manatee County Commission, Peace River initiative, Sarasota County-Shelby Botanical Gardens, and Manasota-88 are local to the central Florida region and take donations for the preservation of central Florida’s unique ecological systems.
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