This week, the Mosaic Company is asking Manatee County commissioners to approve a zoning change that will allow the Polk County-based firm to expand its Wingate Mine property by more than 3,600 acres.
The request by the world’s largest manufacturer of phosphate-based fertilizers is garnering support from several of Mosaic’s residential neighbors, as well as the editorial board of the Bradenton Herald.
Linda C. Eneix of Myakka City wrote the commission in support, calling Mosaic an “exemplary” corporate neighbor.
“Mosaic Phosphates has impressed me as one of the most caring, responsive and community supportive institutions imaginable in today’s commercial world,” writes Eneix, a resident of the Winding Creek neighborhood adjoining the Wingate Mine site. “Mosaic is involved in everything — even to the point of sponsoring an annual weekend lunch meeting for their immediate neighbors, the Winding Creek residents, to personally address any concerns or questions.”
Another resident, Gary Reeder of Duette, wrote a letter to the Herald saying how important phosphate is to the agricultural economy throughout America and the world.
The fourth-generation Manatee County farmer, who is also president of the Manatee County Farm Bureau, said: “Anyone who argues against phosphate mining is also arguing against farmers, the jobs we create, and the abundant, affordable food we produce with the necessity of fertilizer.”
But for every Mosaic supporter, just as many are opposing the expansion; many of whom fear the potential damage to the Myakka River and nearby waterways.
“There can be no discounting the potential hazards or the environmental impacts,” the Herald editorial board writes. “Mosaic’s team of ecologists, engineers and biologists have proved to be creative in restoration and reclamation, as a tour of some projects indicates.”
The editorial then discusses some of the intricacies of fertilizer production, where phosphate ore is extracted through the application of sulfuric acid, creating a waste product called phosphogypsum, a byproduct that contains both uranium and radium.
This phosphogypsum was at the heart of the sinkhole in September at Mosaic’s New Wales fertilizer plant in Polk County, where some people worried that excess wastewater drained into the Floridan aquifer. Nevertheless, an investigation by both Mosaic and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection determined that all the polluted water had remained on company property.
The paper saw the New Wales incident as a “rare occurrence.”
“Certainly, there is the potential for other accidents,” the editors conclude, before calling for commissioners to approve the request, “but if that is the measure by which we judge projects, little would be accomplished.”