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Sat Apr 3, 2021, 01:57 PM

'Imminent' Collapse at Florida Phosphate Plant Wastewater Pond Threatens Tampa Bay, Neighborhoods

https://weather.com/news/news/2021-04-03-leak-at-florida-phosphate-plant-tampa-bay-manatee-county-piney-point

* What an environmental clusterf**k

Some of the water has already been drained into nearby Tampa Bay in an attempt to prevent the collapse.

"Evacuate area NOW. Collapse of Piney Point Stack Imminent!" read the alert from county officials about 11 a.m. Saturday.

“There has been further motion with the wall,” Manatee County Public Safety Director Jacob Saur told the Bradenton Herald. “We’ve ordered further evacuations and closed U.S. 41. That’s all I know right now.” / Officials first discovered a tear Thursday in the reservoir, which contains about 480 million gallons of water and waste products from the manufacture of fertilizer from phosphate, according to the Bradenton Herald.

The pond breached about 4 p.m. Friday, leaking water that contains phosphorus and nitrogen. Residents within a half mile of the reservoir, which is owned by HRK Holdings, were warned to evacuate. The evacuation order was expanded to residents living within 1 mile of the old plant about 7:20 p.m. Friday.

“What has been occurring in the past 12 hours is there are a number of small breaches in addition to what we believe is a significant leak at the bottom of the retention pond,” Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes said.

Officials tried to reduce the risk of a collapse by draining the wastewater, about 22,000 gallons a minute, into nearby Tampa Bay, according to Axios.

The pond sits in large mound that is known as a gypsum stack that is made of phosphogypsum, a byproduct of the fertilizer made at the plant from the 1960s until 2001. Most of the naturally occurring radioactive uranium, thorium and radium in phosphate rock ends up in the phosphogypsum, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The uranium and thorium decay to radium, and radium decays to radon, a radioactive gas.

The wastewater inside the pond at the top of the stack is a mixture of seawater from an old dredging project, rainwater and the leftovers from fertilizer manufacturing that can carry phosphorus and nitrogen, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

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Reply 'Imminent' Collapse at Florida Phosphate Plant Wastewater Pond Threatens Tampa Bay, Neighborhoods (Original post)
flamingdem Apr 3 OP
captain queeg Apr 3 #1
flamingdem Apr 3 #2
csziggy Apr 3 #3
flamingdem Apr 3 #4
taxi Apr 3 #5
csziggy Apr 3 #7
taxi Apr 4 #8
csziggy Apr 4 #10
taxi Apr 4 #11
csziggy Apr 4 #12
Lancero Apr 4 #14
The Jungle 1 Apr 4 #15
csziggy Apr 4 #18
The Jungle 1 Apr 4 #19
csziggy Apr 4 #21
The Jungle 1 Apr 3 #6
TheBlackAdder Apr 4 #9
The Jungle 1 Apr 4 #16
Renew Deal Apr 4 #13
malaise Apr 4 #17
Initech Apr 4 #20
Crunchy Frog Apr 4 #22

Response to flamingdem (Original post)

Sat Apr 3, 2021, 02:02 PM

1. My grandma lived in that area. Lots of "phosphate pits"

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Response to captain queeg (Reply #1)

Sat Apr 3, 2021, 02:04 PM

2. The phosphate companies get away with it due to the usual "donations"

to the GOP.

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Response to flamingdem (Original post)

Sat Apr 3, 2021, 02:31 PM

3. My father was a phosphate mining engineer as was his father

So I grew up with this mess.

There are several problems with the byproducts of phosphate mining - there a huge gypsum stockpiles a hundred or more feet tall, the water that is mixed with clay removed from the phosphate layer, that just does not dry out easily, the contaminated water such as these, and of course, the slightly radioactive sand that was used in the past to build millions of concrete block houses in that area.

In Central Florida, there are phosphate mine holding "ponds" that have been there before I was born with dikes thirty or forty feet tall. Some of the areas have been alleviated by "restoration" of the land into boring flatland with "waterfront" property that is sold to out of state people for subdivisions, but there is a limit to how much is commercially feasible. The state used to have a fund for assisting with restoration - I am not sure what the status is on that fund.

My Dad owned a piece of land that had been partially "restored" with the rest in un-reclaimed phosphate pits - that was not holding pond area. Those old phosphate pits were really an ecological niche - the overburden piles lifted the land level above the ground water level so more hardwoods could grow there, providing more habitat for all sorts of animals. When they reclaimed that land, they flattened the land and sculpted it on a gradual slope towards the low parts which became water areas - normally they planted no trees or anything other than grass to provide habitat.

I used to ride my horse through both unmined and previously mined land around Bartow, Florida. None of it looks like what I remember - it's all been mined, some of it has been reclaimed.

To see what the really old unreclaimed land looks like, look at Saddle Creek Park east of Lakeland, Florida.

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Response to csziggy (Reply #3)

Sat Apr 3, 2021, 02:33 PM

4. Thanks for your story

I hope this is a wake up call. Tampa Bay will be scorched.

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Response to csziggy (Reply #3)

Sat Apr 3, 2021, 02:44 PM

5. Is Saddle Creek the area recently developed along the Polk Parkway?

The last time on the Polk Parkway there were two unbelievably large warehouses on a flattened expanse.

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Response to taxi (Reply #5)

Sat Apr 3, 2021, 07:31 PM

7. No, Saddle Creek has been a park for at least fifty years

I used to go horseback riding there taking horses out of a rental barn before I got my first horse at thirteen. It's all old phosphate pits with the piles of overburden in between. Not storage pits as the ones endangering Tampa Bay, but what was left by the old mining methods before reclamation began.

If you look up Saddle Creek Park on Google Maps, you will see how the system of pits and ridges were left from that old system. Here is a nautical chart of the park:


They used to take draglines to remove the overburden (the stuff above the phosphate layer), then sluice the phosphate layer out with big hoses, and pump the slurry to the processing plants. The draglines would walk along, digging as they went, then turn and start a new line, ending up with the somewhat parallel pits with raised ground in between.

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Response to csziggy (Reply #7)

Sun Apr 4, 2021, 12:07 AM

8. Thanks

If they don't stop digging soon the whole state will be scuttled and sink. That's some serious dredging.

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Response to taxi (Reply #8)

Sun Apr 4, 2021, 12:18 AM

10. Well, the phosphate in Polk County is pretty much gone

There is some slightly north, but the residents are fighting to keep the land from being destroyed. Problem is, we're going to run out of phosphate for fertilizer. Yeah, it is overused, but the levels of crops will go down if properly balanced fertilizer is not available. The world needs to use it more efficiently and stop flushing it into our water sources.

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Response to csziggy (Reply #10)

Sun Apr 4, 2021, 12:59 AM

11. Lake O gets the phosphates from one side and the nitrates from the other

From what I've heard one of them feeds the algae bloom in the fresh water, and the other the red tide. Whether that's true or not I don't know. What is known is that in a very short period we have really fouled the waters.

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Response to taxi (Reply #11)

Sun Apr 4, 2021, 01:23 AM

12. Yeah, a lot of stupid people think if a little fertilizer is good, a lot has to be better

And they don't apply it correctly or prepare fields correctly, so there is a lot of run off. Organic farmers have it right - the correct amount at the correct time and no more. Plus they preserve the soil, and don't let it wash or blow away.

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Response to csziggy (Reply #10)

Sun Apr 4, 2021, 02:12 AM

14. Maybe, just maybe, we can accept depleting resources for what they are...

A big red flag that our population has grown far beyond what our planet can support.

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Response to csziggy (Reply #3)

Sun Apr 4, 2021, 07:27 AM

15. Who paid to reclaim that park?

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Response to The Jungle 1 (Reply #15)

Sun Apr 4, 2021, 11:39 AM

18. The thing is, Saddle Creek is pretty much unreclaimed

The county has added some facilities and improved the roads, but otherwise it is just about how it was - other than vegetation and wildlife - the way the phosphate mining left it. When I rode on it, there were not the trees there are now and all the roads were dirt. There were not the facilities - no boat ramps, picnic tables, or restrooms. Those have grown up in the 55+ years since then. The wildlife, especially birds and fish, came later. I suspect they stocked it with fish - now it seems to noted for the large mouth bass. But for bird watchers, there are all kinds of birds that like water.

Reclaimed land has shallower slopes by law:

Prior to 1975, reclamation of mined land was not required. Lands mined prior to July 1, 1975, are called “nonmandatory” land. The Nonmandatory Land Reclamation Program provided funding for the reclamation of eligible phosphate lands mined before July 1975.

The Florida Legislature requires that all lands mined for phosphate after July 1, 1975, be reclaimed. Land mined during or after 1975 that is required to be reclaimed is called “mandatory” land. Phosphate mine operators are required to provide the department with a conceptual reclamation plan. Part of our extensive evaluation of reclamation plan design includes analysis of water quantity and quality impacts, consideration of best available technology, and focusing on the preservation of wildlife habitat and resources. Reclamation standards for phosphate lands include contouring to safe slopes, providing for acceptable water quality and quantity, revegetation, and the return of wetlands to pre-mining type, nature, function and acreage. Reclamation standards for phosphate lands are detailed in Part II of Chapter 378, F.S., and Chapter 62C-16, F.A.C. The forms used for the reclamation program and filing instructions may be obtained online.
https://floridadep.gov/water/mining-mitigation/content/phosphate


My memory is that there used to be a fund to help pay for reclamation. Now it seems to be on the companies - which is probably why the pits in question were abandoned and not reclaimed. Oh, here we go - there is still a fund for the lands mined before 1975:

About Nonmandatory Mine Reclamation Program

Funding for the reclamation of old abandoned phosphate mine sites is managed by the Nonmandatory Land Reclamation Program. The program was created as a result of public concerns over the thousands of acres that had been mined for phosphate before reclamation was required by law. Identified parcels dated as far back as 1888. The program was created to provide a cost reimbursement grant for landowners for reclamation to eliminate health, safety and environmental issues existing on the abandoned mine sites. The grant program was deemed necessary because the cost of reclamation was more than the value of those properties even after reclamation.

Learn more on the history of the program, including number of parcels and acres involved.

How the Program Works

The Nonmandatory Land Reclamation Program provides funds for reclamation of property mined for phosphate prior to the 1975 introduction of regulatory requirements for reclamation. The grant program reimburses landowners for approved costs of reclamation work to improve environmental and economic utility of lands by removing safety hazards and improving water quality and quantity in affected watersheds.

Eligibility

Lands disturbed by removal of phosphate rock prior to July 1, 1975, have already been identified (149,130 acres) and reported in “Phosphate Land Reclamation Study Commission Report on Phosphate Mining and Reclamation, 1978.” The identified lands were divided into 748 parcels, and each parcel was classified into one of five land forms:

mined out
clay settling area
sand tailings
hydraulically mined
other
More: https://floridadep.gov/water/mine-restoration-funding-program


Here is a picture of a newly reclaimed piece of land:


https://floridadep.gov/water/mine-restoration-funding-program/content/mine-restoration-program-history

Here is Saddle Creek Park:


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saddle_Creek_Park_(Florida)

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Response to csziggy (Reply #18)

Sun Apr 4, 2021, 03:13 PM

19. Thanks for the informative reply

Pa is the same, pre 1975 mines are on the public dime.

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Response to The Jungle 1 (Reply #19)

Sun Apr 4, 2021, 05:54 PM

21. Yep, before that no one really cared

Except maybe the tree hugger nuts. Gee, that sounds familiar, having been one of those.

I really can't complain too much about the phosphate industry. My Dad and Granddad were both mining engineers and very influential in the business. Phosphate paid for our support, for my parent's ability to pay for college for all four of their daughters, and for the land I now live on. But I've learned to be realistic about the damage it did.

Most of the landscapes I knew growing up are gone. The town my father grew up in (Agricola) is completely gone. The town he first lived in after marrying Mom (Brewster) is gone. Both were company towns and once the mining companies mined all around them, they sold the houses and mined where the towns had been. The house I grew up in had been in Agricola. Dad bought it and moved it to Bartow to be our house.

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Response to flamingdem (Original post)

Sat Apr 3, 2021, 02:50 PM

6. No worries we can trust corporate America to do the right thing.

Just look how they cleaned up Pa. We only have 3000 miles of dead streams from mine waste. Great job corporate America. Guess who pays to clean up that Rockefeller mess?

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Response to The Jungle 1 (Reply #6)

Sun Apr 4, 2021, 12:10 AM

9. And when they fuck up, they go bankrupt and leave it for the Feds and taxpayers to fund.

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Response to TheBlackAdder (Reply #9)

Sun Apr 4, 2021, 07:38 AM

16. Which is what happened in Pa.

We still have over 3000 miles of dead streams because of coal mine acid water. Taxpayers have paid over 700 million to fix this man made environmental disaster. We are barely scratching the surface.
Seems like the Rockefeller's should come help and all the other stinking coal baron families

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Response to flamingdem (Original post)

Sun Apr 4, 2021, 01:35 AM

13. This is one way to have home values instantly go to $0

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Response to flamingdem (Original post)

Sun Apr 4, 2021, 08:05 AM

17. Death Sentence is a disaster

He will lose lots of votes here - Tampa is hardly a poor region of Florida - just wait for the cancer.

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Response to flamingdem (Original post)

Sun Apr 4, 2021, 03:18 PM

20. It looks like the misery and disasters of 2020 are spilling over into 2021.

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Response to flamingdem (Original post)

Sun Apr 4, 2021, 05:56 PM

22. Gee. Maybe Florida could benefit from some infrastructure investment.

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