Florida Phosphate Operations
Phosphate mining does not create nor destroy radiation. Phosphogypsum, which is a byproduct of the fertilizer manufacturing process, is created when the phosphate rock we mine is combined with sulfuric acid to form phosphoric acid and gypsum. Studies show that typical Florida soils are naturally radioactive and this is also true of phosphogypsum. Radioactivity is slightly higher in mined lands, however, soils found in other parts of the country and world can contain higher levels of radiation.
The phosphogypsum must be filtered and removed so the remaining phosphoric acid can be used to make fertilizer. The phosophogypsum is subsequently deposited on a gypstack under strict standards established by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) with oversight by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
There will be no gypstacks in the counties where we are seeking new mining permits. Learn more about phosphogypsum from the Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute (FIPR) And the International Fertilizer Association (IFA).
Instead of disposing of phosogypsum in stacks, can’t the material be used for other purposes?
Yes, it’s used as a soil amendment in north Florida and other parts of the world, but not in central Florida because of U.S. EPA regulations. In 1989, EPA regulations required U.S. phosphate companies to dispose of phosogypsum in stacks because of slightly elevated levels of radioactive materials in the gypsum. This was modified in 1992 to allow some alternative uses in north Florida.
There are slight differences in radioactivity between gypsum made from north Florida rock and central Florida rock. Consequently, gypsum made from central Florida rock is required to be stacked by EPA while gypsum from north Florida locations can be sold to peanut farmers as a soil amendment and a source of calcium. Additionally, Mosaic is working with trade organizations like the IFA to monitor the different international approaches and better understand where and how phosphogypsum is being reused.
Does Mosaic illegally dispose tons of hazardous waste in the gypstacks?
No. Mosaic complies with the standards for waste handling and disposal that have been established by the FDEP and the EPA. Trained technicians make daily inspections of the stack systems and their liners.
Mosaic reached settlement agreements (also called Consent Decrees) with these agencies to modify practices related to the handling and recycling of certain onsite waste materials generated inside the fence line of our fertilizer manufacturing facilities in Florida and Louisiana. These settlements represented a compromise between the government’s interpretation and Mosaic’s historic understanding about where the “line” between one set of waste handling regulations ends and another begins.
How does Mosaic guarantee the proper closure and long-term care of gypstacks
Mosaic has always accepted the responsibility to close and manage our gypstacks. We do this by complying with stringent financial assurance requirements imposed under the states of Florida and Louisiana. Additionally, Mosaic recently reached a settlement agreement to provide a $630 million cash trust to support the closure and long-term care of gypstacks in Florida and Louisiana. This is expected to grow to approximately $2 billion by the time additional funding is needed. Read Mosaic's news release about the 2015 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) settlement with the EPA.
Managing water in our phosphogypsum stacks is an important part of Mosaic’s manufacturing operations. In 2004, our Riverview gypstack experienced a breach. The incident occurred in a year when an unprecedented four hurricanes struck Florida, leaving the region saturated as a result of extraordinarily high natural water levels and much higher than average rainfall. The water from the breach entered Archie Creek, and subsequently made its way to a small area along the Hillsborough Bay coastline.
This water, which was diluted quickly because of heavy rainfall, also remained very close to shore due to the tropical weather conditions. As a result, it was determined by highly-qualified third party experts that any impacts were temporary and extremely localized.
Following the breach, Mosaic invested approximately $30 million in improvements at the Riverview facility, including infrastructure that allows us to store greater volumes of water and better manage water inventories at the facility. Many of these water management practices have been successfully implemented at other gypstacks in the region.
In addition, Mosaic has performed mitigation activities at the Giant's Camp Wetland Restoration and Oyster Reef Project and partnered on numerous restoration projects in Tampa Bay. In fact, Mosaic’s partnership with the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and implementation of best management practices at its facilities on the Bay have contributed to seagrass populations meeting and exceeding major recovery goals to levels not seen since 1950 and achieving all water quality targets in Tampa Bay for the third year in a row. Read more about the improved health of Tampa Bay.
Isn’t Mosaic simply discarding dirty water into local waterways from mining and manufacturing operations?
No. Phosphate mining and manufacturing operations in Florida are highly regulated. Mosaic complies with regulations put in place by agencies responsible for protecting people and the environment. Water discharging from mining and manufacturing operations is done through permitted discharge points called outfalls. To safeguard the surrounding waterways these outfalls are monitored for water quality parameters.
Today, we monitor 78 active outfalls for water quality and flow based on stringent permit requirements and we analyze surface water for 246 different chemicals. Our record of compliance with these permit requirements is demonstrated in the public record. We follow rigid quality control procedures to ensure that the water released through the outfalls meets or exceeds state water quality standards. Learn more about Mosaic’s water stewardship.
Are Mosaic’s groundwater withdrawal permits higher than are needed for mining and manufacturing processes?
Groundwater withdrawal limits are designed to allow Mosaic’s facilities to operate and continue to produce the fertilizer needed by farmers. In 2012, we worked with water management regulators to design an Integrated Water Use Permit (IWUP), which will reduce Mosaic’s daily permitted groundwater usage by an additional 30 percent over the next 20 years. Today, we recycle or reuse approximately 90 percent of the water at our facilities, and we’re always looking for new ways to conserve water. The IWUP, which included a comprehensive review of Mosaic’s water management practices, was the result of nearly five years of negotiation with the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD).
Mosaic previously held seven separate water use permits to run its phosphate mining and fertilizer manufacturing operations in central Florida. By using an “integrated” approach to combine these permits, Mosaic voluntarily reduced its daily permitted groundwater usage by nearly 30 million gallons per day (MGD), a dramatic reduction of 30 percent. Today, our groundwater use constitutes approximately 2 percent of total groundwater use in the SWFWMD.
Mosaic has targeted an additional 10 percent reduction in groundwater use by the year 2020. We’ve identified alternate water supplies like reclaimed water to help us reach our goal. As an example, Mosaic currently uses 5 MGD of reclaimed water in our operations in lieu of groundwater.
Does Mosaic use groundwater before discharging it into the environment?
Responsible stewardship of water resources is a cornerstone of Mosaic’s phosphate operations. We use water in our mining and fertilizer manufacturing operations in a number of ways, to slurry and transport phosphate rock, to protect and hydrate wetlands during mining, to cool process equipment in manufacturing plants and a host of other uses.
Mosaic uses state-of-the-art water treatment methods to meet federal and state standards before releasing water into local waterways through permitted outfalls. The standards are met by blending waters collected from stormwater runoff, non-process water or other sources, like groundwater. We calculate 10 percent of Mosaic's total permitted groundwater use is currently used for blending to meet stringent water quality standards.
Is phosphate mining the largest user of groundwater in central Florida?
No. The total water use in the SWFWMD area in 2011 was 1,022 million gallons per day (MGD). Of that, approximately 2 percent was used for mining operations. This includes water use for phosphate, peat, limestone, sand, shell and gravel mines. Mosaic’s share of the mining and dewatering category is less than 2 percent of the total water use in the region; a relatively small amount considering Mosaic’s water use permits cover a large area in multiple counties as well as several mines and manufacturing facilities.
Will new mining operations impact groundwater use in the region?
No. According to the most recent SWFWMD report, phosphate mining accounts for approximately 2 percent of the total water usage in the District. The phosphate industry Area-wide Environmental Impact Statement (AEIS), an exhaustive study of phosphate mining practices, conducted by the US Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) and finalized in April 2013, reviewed phosphate water use practices and included the following comments in their final report: “By implementing water conservation practices, including greater reliance on capturing and recycling onsite surface waters for use in the mining and beneficiation activities, groundwater use has been greatly reduced (BBS&J, 2007).” Water conservation was also addressed in Chapter 4 of the AEIS.
Does phosphate mining cause the intermediate aquifer to become polluted or negatively impacted?
There are three aquifer levels: Surficial, Intermediate and Floridan. As a result of mining activities, a temporary drop in surficial water levels may occur. Generally, drinking water is sourced from the Intermediate and Floridan aquifers. However, in accordance with our permits and the strict regulations under which we operate, this change in water level is not allowed to affect areas outside Mosaic’s property line during mining operations. This has been confirmed through years of water quality and water level monitoring. Mosaic’s Integrated Water Use Permit (IWUP) is an unprecedented approach to water conservation and regulation, including the use of Environmental Management Plans (EMPs), a predictive strategy for protecting wetlands up to four years in advance of mining operations. The IWUP goes beyond normal permit requirements and implements more stringent monitoring and reporting requirements, including twice the amount of previous data collection.
Yes. The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) has monitored radiation levels on pre- and post-mined lands for nearly 30 years. Their monitoring results indicate levels on post-mined lands are within naturally occurring variations in soils and are not considered harmful.
Also, the Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute (FIPR) has also extensively studied and conducted research concerning radiation, waste disposal, air and water pollution since its inception in 1978. It is funded through the phosphate severance tax.
Additionally, there have been at least two extensive studies regarding the health of phosphate workers (a 1985 study of 3,199 workers over a 23 year period and 22,992 workers over a 43 year period). Neither study linked an increase in cancer or other diseases to workplace exposures in the phosphate industry.
Most recently, there have been two independent studies by the FDOH and Hillsborough County Environmental Planning Commission (EPC) on radiation for the Riverview phosophogypsum stacks (2010 and 2012-2014) as part of the Development of Regional Impact (DRI) for the Riverview facility. None of the measurements collected during the studies required remedial actions as recommended by public health agencies.
Actually, Mosaic is one of the most highly regulated companies in the State of Florida. Florida regulations are among the most rigorous in the nation which is why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is using Florida’s phosphogypsum regulations as a template for the rest of the nation. Mosaic has developed extensive monitoring systems for air pollution control, surface and groundwater management, employee health and safety, process safety management and waste management/minimization.
As part of the Areawide Environmental Impact Statement (AEIS), Environmental Justice concerns as they relate to phosphate mining were specifically addressed. According to the final report, “it is expected that with mitigation, the adverse effects associated with mining would not disproportionately impact the populations of environmental justice concern in the areas leading to a minor degree of adverse effects.”
No. A moratorium on mining was considered and rejected by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers as part of their 2013 Final Area-wide Environmental Impact Statement.
Mosaic brings many benefits to the counties where we operate. In addition to the jobs provided by Mosaic, our operations generate additional revenues for county governments as well as a significant boost to local philanthropic organizations.
Most areas we mine were previously zoned for agricultural use and must be rezoned for mining. As a result of this rezoning, property tax revenue from the land increases by millions, providing benefits to local schools and governments. In addition to property tax revenue, county governments receive a portion of the severance tax paid on each ton of phosphate rock mined at our facilities. With new mining operations, an entirely new revenue stream is created for the county government which can be invested in services for its citizens.
For example, the DeSoto mine plant construction is expected to require a capital investment from Mosaic of nearly $1 billion. This investment creates a ripple effect to surrounding businesses and a further increase in tax revenues for the county government. Construction of the plants will result in the creation of significant temporary construction jobs at the site.
Aside from the company’s cash investments in our operations, we believe that we have a responsibility to support the communities where we operate. After all, this is where we live, work and play as well. Each year, the company contributes millions of dollars to Central Florida charities and the United Way.
During the 2015 calendar year, Mosaic’s economic impact in Florida included:
- $447 million in payroll
- $479 million in capital expenditures
- $54 million in land reclamation
- $25 million in county tangible and real estate taxes
- $39 million in state severance and sales taxes
- $2 million to United Way organizations in Florida
Clay Settling Areas
Yes. CSAs are required by the State of Florida to store the liquid clay from the phosphate mining process. The footprint for a proposed CSA is part of the master mining and reclamation plans for each individual mine. Approval is granted by the appropriate regulatory agencies.
Is it true that clay settling areas are full of waste and serve no purpose?
CSAs allow for settling of clay, serve as water reservoirs, and are used for recycling of water and management of stormwater. They also serve a number of useful purposes both during and after mining. For example, reclaimed CSAs are currently being used as pasture land and for farming to grow a number of row crops like zucchini, cabbage and collards. In addition to agriculture, reclaimed CSAs also provide green space for valuable wildlife habitat.
How many clay settling area failures have there been since tougher building standards were put in place almost 40 years ago?
Since 1972, the State of Florida put in place requirements for earthen dams. These included requirements for inspections, maintenance, and certification by professional engineers. This has virtually eliminated dam failures. In fact, there have been only two failures since that time. These incidents were traced to very specific reasons, which led to design modifications and further strengthening of the rules in 1999. There have been no failures or major releases since that time from any dam designed to the upgraded standards. Today, these upgraded standards are considered state-of-the-art and best management practices for earthen dam and reservoir construction. Currently, all Mosaic CSA design specifications meet or exceed Florida regulatory requirements.
Dust at Mining Sites
Radioactivity in dust is present at very low levels, which is typical of environmental sources. The dust generated during the removal of overburden – arguably the dustiest part of mining – would be the same as the dust generated in agricultural tilling or digging in your yard.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) found during the Area-wide Environmental Impact Statement process that dust at mining sites remains on the mining sites. This is because the combination of dust particle sizes at phosphate mines and wind speeds result in the dust settling to the ground in less than about 300 feet.
Local counties regulate dust levels for mining operations through their comprehensive plans and ordinances. Certain beneficiation processes require an air permit for unloading specific processing materials. The air permit is issued through a program administered by the FDEP with oversight by the EPA.
How does Mosaic comply with strict guidelines during mining to protect the air we breathe?
Mining operations are required to have a monitoring plan and monitoring devices installed at intervals not to exceed 5,280 feet from the areas where phosphate ore is being extracted, or in accordance with a suitable air monitoring plan prepared under the seal of a professional engineer.
Mosaic is also required to comply with monitoring of mobile equipment, open burning, fugitive dust, light/glare, noise and odors. Per our approved monitoring plans, there are several monitoring stations located throughout the mine sites (both stationary and mobile) that provide continuous atmospheric monitoring of particulate matter and we report on these monitoring results annually. We also use preventative measures such as water trucks and vegetative berms to minimize air concerns.
No. The Fluorosilicic acid (FSA) sold by Mosaic is a finished product that has been carefully manufactured, tested, and certified, following the strictest industry and regulatory standards.
FSA meets both customer and regulatory requirements for purity and is not a hazardous waste. FSA has been supplied to municipalities across the country for decades as a safe drinking water additive. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) named community water fluoridation one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.