What we know about the latest possible tear in a Mosaic gypstack liner at its New Wales plant in Florida

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Mosaic sinkhole
Mosaic's New Wales phosphate manufacturing plant near Mulberry in eastern Polk County. By Seán Kinane / WMNF News (27 Sept 2016).

There’s a possible leak of water at a Polk County phosphogypsum stack owned by the giant fertilizer company Mosaic. It’s at their New Wales Plant near Mulberry.

That’s where there was a massive sinkhole draining millions of gallons of processed wastewater into the aquifer in 2016.

We spoke about this with Ragan Whitlock, a staff attorney with the Center For Biological Diversity.

Listen to this full show:

“A few years ago the Florida Department of Environmental Protection ordered this facility to halt all construction operations because of seismic activity that was recorded. And then ordered additional seismic monitoring to happen at the site. Whether what they’re currently referring to or not has been ordered by the regulators is unclear. I invite additional technology at the site and certainly have no problem with that. But it downplays the issue that’s happening here. This is a liner tear. This is a loss of toxic of process wastewater. There’s really no other way around that.”

SK: It sounded like they said that they had to remove the process water that was stored on that stack. So how are both things possible? How is it that they had removed the process water but — was there a decrease in the water? I’m a little bit confused about that part.

“Yeah, what’s been reported to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is a process wastewater loss. So even though they have, at this specific area, removed the process wastewater from the holding pond, that holding pond still sits atop concrete like gypsum that’s hardened over time. Interstitially between the layers of this phosphgypsum there still exists process wastewater. So likely that is what’s been lost. However, it’s it speaks back to the transparency problem. Normally only see liner tears, you see a drop in elevation from a stack system like we saw last year, however, now we simply don’t have the information and I’m worried that we will not receive it from Mosaic board from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection anytime soon. All we have is a pollution notice submitted along with a critical condition notification that says we have lost an indeterminate amount of this process wastewater.”

-Ragan Whitlock, CBD

Watch this interview here:

We invited Mosaic on the show, but they were unable to make it. Here’s the information on their website about the latest possible tear:

“On October 24, 2023, we provided an update about the New Wales gypstack. In recent years, we deployed a new monitoring technology which measures seismic activity. The technology is quite sensitive and the monitoring points encircle the stack at various distances and depths. It has proven effective in alerting us to the possibility of an issue which could be occurring far below the stack and liner. We also are employing other monitors to observe changes in water levels in and around the stack. That said we still are working to confirm conditions of the subsurface below this area of the stack. We stopped using this area for stacking around a year ago, and since that time, have removed the process water stored on the stack. The stack is within the zone of capture for a nearby recovery well, so in the event there is a liner tear, water released will be recovered. We immediately notified the state of circumstances we encountered, and following that, have done outreach to the local community and other stakeholders.”

-Mosaic website

Manatee protections

We also talked about how this month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it may be warranted to reclassify the West Indian manatee from threatened to endangered.

Also on Tuesday Café on 31 Oct 2023 – Governor Ron DeSantis Park in Manatee County

We heard audio from a speech this month by Gov. DeSantis at the opening of Governor Ron DeSantis Park in Manatee County.

WMNF’s Tuesday Café

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https://open.spotify.com/show/311qfxLFcO8F7ZvnjgZogD – WMNF’s Tuesday Café with Seán Kinane.

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