The threat of phosphate mining in Florida

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Introduction

Phosphate mining is an important aspect in Florida dating back from 1940 to date. It is among Florida’s resources that boosts the economy by 20% (Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute, 2017). It is an important element in the manufacture of fertilizer used in agriculture for planting crops. However, in spite of the many benefits of phosphate mining, there are dangers that the activity has posed in Florida and its people. The mining has caused an acute loss of water sources as well as made the water aquifer supplying water to Price River become drained (GateHouse Media, 2012). In addition, mining of phosphate has exposed the people of Florida to radioactive material, which are detrimental to their health as well as the environment (Hammock, 2016). Due to the mentioned effects posed by phosphate mining, it is essential to take a deeper look into the subject and the effects to prevent the threat ahead.

A visible effect of phosphate mining is the destruction of the landscape due to strip mining as the land is basically carved, and a living organism will be systematically get killed in or on the land (Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute,  2017). Processing the phosphate ore from sand and clay uses a lot of water that results in a slurry that is pumped into pipelines to a processing plant. Phosphate companies in counties like, Hillsborough, eastern Manatee, Hardee, and Polk have mined 246,000 acres. From 1940 to 1999, it is the case that 136000 acres of the peace watershed have been lost alongside 343 miles of streams (Pittmann, 2013). This has led to the loss of water aquifer being its major water source (Pittmann, 2013). Peace River water levels over the years have dropped low to the point of water flowing into sinkholes. The loss of water presents a danger to agricultural projects and water supply to the people of Florida (GateHouse Media, 2012). A study carried out a study to determine the amount of radioactivity in the Florida soil (Hammock, 2016) display high levels of radium past the normal, radon gas was also observed to be in a higher content than expected levels. Inhaling the two gases in the air or any contact with the soil is dangerous and hazardous to people’s health (Hammock, 2016). Plants absorb toxic elements from reclaimed mined soil up through roots to the leaves and end up storing the toxins and they find their way into the food chain through cattle ranching and agriculture. This exposes the entire food chain to toxins, which put people and animals at risk of health issues such as cancer (Hammock, 2016).

The issue of radioactive materials piling up in Florida because of phosphate mining is risky not just to the environment but the people, animals and plants. On the 17th September 2016, Mosaic Fertilizer Company’s gypsum stuck was recently pulled down by a sinkhole. The radioactive material found its way to the main aquifer in Florida, which posed a grave danger to the citizens of Florida who utilized the water from the aquifer. (The Guardian, 2016)

Conclusion

Radioactive waste materials pose a danger to living organisms hence why many people, governments and organizations strife on emphasizing on proper waste disposal techniques. There should be more insight into the handling of radioactive waste materials from the phosphate mining companies, like coming up with safe disposal ways of the waste materials so that the evacuation is both safe to the environment, people as well as the flora and fauna. This is geared towards preventing and mitigating any risks that might be posed by the radioactive waste materials.

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  1. GateHouse Media. (2012) Study of phosphate mining’s impact stirs industry’s critics. Retrieved from <http://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20120617/study-of-phosphate-minings-impact-stirs-industrys-critics>
  2. Hammock. D. (2016). Dangers of Phosphate Mines. Retrieved from <https://oursantaferiver.org/dangers-of-phosphate-mines/>
  3. Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute. (2017). Discovery of Phosphate in Florida. Retrieved from < http://www.fipr.state.fl.us/about-us/phosphate-primer/discovery-of-phosphate-in-florida/>
  4. Pittmann, C. (2013). Study: phosphate mine expansion will cause ‘significant’ wetlands damage. Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved from             <http://www.tampabay.com/news/environment/wetlands/study-phosphate-mine-expansion-will-cause-significant-wetlands-damage/2119360>
  5. The guardian. (2016). Florida sinkhole causes vast leak of wastewater into drinking water source. Retrieved from < https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/17/florida-sinkhole-wastewater-leak-drinking-water>
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