Phosphate Threatens Florida's Environment and Groundwater

08/21/13 Robert Lorei
Radioactivity: Live Call-In (Wednesday) | Listen to this entire show:


Today on Radioactivity Rob Lorei speaks with guest Dennis Mader who is with People for Protecting Peace River 3PR to get his view on the news that the Mosaic phosphate company has been granted the right to pump 70 million more gallons of freshwater from the underground aquifer to use in its mining operations. If you drive along Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa and look across Hillsborough Bay, drive along US 60 through Polk County or through the east side of Manatee County and you’ll see them. Giant gypsum stacks. The slightly radioactive byproduct of phosphate mining. The scale of the mines is hard to describe unless you’ve driven to or worked on the sites. To hear more about this listen to the full show above.

Watch this video for more on the Phosphate Effect

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Hi Rob: Good show today! I think it would be good to get a Mosaic rep on your show to discuss their side of the story. How about Jackie Barron? She was a reporter for the local NBC affiliate, Newschannel 8, for a long time, and is now a PR rep for them. Phone: 941-322-6811. E-mail:

Great show today. I happened to have been out to see some job sites, in Bartow and Riverview! (passed all the scenic FLORIDA MOUNTAINS mentioned on your program. I have forgotten the specific chemistry now, but the process of turning the phosphate into fertilizer involves dissolving the rock, and phosphate in sulfuric acid forming some new compound with the sulfur and phosphate. (assume: we start with a ton of rock, and add ... say a ton of acid. We now have 2 tons of material.) A 3rd chemical is then added (I don't know the proportions and I'm just making up these numbers to show the magnitude... but) now we have 3 tons of material in the pot (or so). This 3rd material causes the phosphate to come out of solution (precipitate) leaving all the other junk behind. So, now we have 1 ton of "fertilizer" and 2 tons of waste and radioactive stuff to put on the pile. THAT is how it gets there. (in some proportion probably not 1/3, 1/3, 1/3) Now, the reason I am writing this note: I took notes (yes, while driving)..... "70 million gallons per day" How much water is that? ONE Gallon is 0.1336806 cubic feet or 0.004951132 cubic yards so 70 million gallons is 346,579.2 cubic yards That would fill a football (American) field 100 yards x 53 yards (wide) x 65 yards high every day. That's how much water is sucked out of our aquifer each day and dumped somewhere, with all of the above mentioned gook (less the gypsum, which is piled up to make the Florida Mountains - and the legend of the Florida Mountain Boys) It is no wonder there are sinkholes developing all over the area.


I listened to the show yesterday and thought it was excellent--the topic, the interviewer, the interviewee, and the phone-in comments and questions. Although I'm writing from my home in central Indiana, I lived my childhood and adolescence in Tampa and Lakeland. I still care very much about the health of the area. I remember in the mid-1950s when my cub scout pack of 15 or so boys stood in the bucket of IMC's "Super Scooper" in Bartow and realized how much earth is ripped up with each bucket load. The scoop was/is immense. In Tampa, we lived a couple of blocks from Bayshore Blvd. and would walk down there to go fishing. The bay was much healthier than now, and there were no gypsum stacks on the other side. I've made many trips to central Florida in the intervening decades and have seen much decline in terms of industry being allowed to run wild. Aside from the vast pollution of phosphate production, there is this other matter of sinkholes. I recently saw a map of sinkholes in central Florida, and there was quite a number of them as each one was marked. If I lived in that area now, I would be very concerned. It can only get worse with so many sources drawing on the aquifer now (agriculture, phosphate, residents, tourists, et al), and the limestone underground structure crumbling. Anyway, keep up the good work. Dennis and a number of others are committed to the cause, but it will take many more people to force a change. Good luck. --HB