The last seven decades of phosphate strip-mining seriously scared the central Florida landscape. One can see West Central Florida’s environmentally unique landscape is under attack by Florida’s phosphate industry officials for the phosphate ore it holds. In the past seventy years, the phosphate industry in West Central Florida has strip-mined for phosphate ore in (1) Hillsborough, Polk, Hardee, and Charlotte counties. The land is stripped some 30 to 50 feet in depth over 4000 non-contiguous square miles which include all phosphate operations in Florida as a whole. That is one big hole. Meaning, the phosphate industry owns more land in central Florida than the total land mass in the great State of Rhode Island.
Needless to say, the phosphate industry in Florida controls the lion’s share of property in West Central Florida, including unique ecosystems of national significance. The property owned by the phosphate industry includes the mineral rights as well. However, natural freshwater resource rights (riparian resources) are treated differently than mineral rights by Florida law. Riparian waterways traversing industry property are not owned by the phosphate industry, they are held by the state of Florida in this case, and are considered public waterways. If the riparian waterways are public waterways, then how is the phosphate industry consuming billions of gallons of fresh aquifer water for free?
Historically, phosphate mining and reclamation of existing mined lands alter the timing and magnitude of surface water runoff, surface water storage, recharge, and evaporation. All of these factors contribute to changes in landscape hydrology and ecology within the Peace River basin (3). All the relevant environmental variables change for the worst when collecting data from reclaimed mined lands.
In reclaimed mined lands, rainwater no longer seeps through the landscape as before stripping the land because the soils are now packed tightly, (2) so water just runs off instead of soaking into the landscape. Water storage is then affected because water can no longer drain down into the aquifers, so the aquifer system levels decrease as well. The natural recharge rate for the aquifers is slowed or stopped completely.
When the water cannot seep down into the aquifers, fresh drinking water is adversely affected as well, because the filtering, “percolation” of rainwater through the earthen materials cleans the water. Percolation is a critical natural process. Percolation is altered or completely disrupted in reclaimed mined lands. So when the process of rainwater “percolation” is interrupted, all freshwater resources in the area decline, causing habitat destruction and aquifer formation destruction.
One such case played out in Hornsby Springs, north of Gainesville, Florida. Florida’s phosphate officials demanded so much water from local aquifer and springs, the spring stopped flowing and cost over one million dollars of taxpayer dollars trying to repair the environmental damage without success. The spring was about 80 feet in depth. Once the spring failed, almost 50,000 visitors a year stopped coming because what is left of the spring is now polluted. .Again one can see the socioeconomic fabric being “stripped” from the public without any financial responsibility by the industry that caused the environmental impact to begin with.
Another example of the phosphate industries severe environmental impacts is Kissengen Springs in Polk County, Florida. Investigation results found that the phosphate industry was to blame because they over pumped the aquifers. The spring flow volume before the phosphate industry interfered was about 30 million gallons a day of clean, clear fresh aquifer water. Once again the phosphate industry did nothing to remedy this severe environmental impact they caused and the visitors stopped coming so the local economy failed as well.
Why would the state of Florida allow the phosphate industry to strip away Florida’s riparian (public water) waterways? Waterways such as rivers, streams, springs, aquifers, wetlands, and water tables are completely removed from the face of the earth. Florida’s phosphate industry officials cause severe environmental damage without paying a dime, including bankrupting entire towns in its unending collateral damage for phosphate to fertilizer production.
Read more from Davey Crockett @ https://www.flmines.com/phpLD – Florida Mines
MINING: Army Corps tries to assess impacts of sprawling phosphate - eenews.net/stories/1059947830.
One Percent: Mining Bone Valley | Scenario Journal. - scenariojournal.com/article/one-percent-mining-bone-valley/.
Peace River Cumulative Impact Assessment - .swfwmd.state.fl.us/waterman/peaceriver/.
I am married 31 years, 3 boys in college, and a retired electrical engineer. I enjoy boating, outdoors, camping, and spending time with my family.