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Another Liner Tear Possible at Mosaic Gyp Stack East of Tampa

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POLK COUNTY — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection was recently informed of a potential liner leak at a phosphogypsum stack at Mosaic's New Wales plant in Mulberry, FL, about 30 miles east of Tampa.

The New Wales plant, where the state plans to study the use of phosphogypsum roadway construction, experienced a large sinkhole under its gyp stack in 2016, leading to 215 million gallons of contaminated water making its way into the aquifer.

Mosaic says that site monitoring equipment alerted supervisors of a possible change of pressure within the stack. This was how Piney Point staff were first made aware of a torn liner at a gyp stack in Manatee County in 2021.

Mosaic was obligated to inform FDEP of the discovery, and the company said it would begin drilling to locate the potential leak, but had not yet been able to confirm whether or not one exists.

Phosphogypsum is radioactive waste created in the production of fertilizer. It is stored in large piles called gyp stacks, which have liners that separate the toxic material from the ground. Mosaic says that the stack is inactive and that there is no water stored at the top the way it had been at Piney Point (which is not a Mosaic site).

The company did, however, experience a liner tear at the gypstack as recently as March of last year that resulted in a 300-foot "cavity" beneath the stack.

"Liner tears are indicative of structural integrity problems, which can lead to more frequent and devastating events," said Ragan Whitlock, a Florida-based attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity in a statement on Wednesday. "The catastrophe at Piney Point started with a possible liner tear. Better oversight and regulation of this industry is needed now to avert further environmental damage."

Mosaic says nearby residents should not be worried, and that they are monitoring the situation.

"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," Jackie Barron, Mosaic's PR Rep, told FOX 13 News on Wednesday. "We immediately notified the state of the circumstances we encountered, and following that, have already done outreach to the local community and other stakeholders."

In a follow-up statement Thursday, Whitlock responded:

"Although it's not yet clear what risks are posed by the apparent liner tear at the New Wales facility, what’s abundantly clear is this multi-billion-dollar industry cannot be trusted to safely dispose of its own radioactive phosphate waste. Given this site’s ongoing history of serious problems, including when a giant sinkhole beneath a gypstack released more than 200 million gallons of toxic wastewater into our aquifer in 2016, regulators should put an immediate halt to plans to expand it."

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  • Charlene

    But the regulators are captured at every level. Unfortunately, it's going to take another sinkhole before people stop putting money first.

    Sunday, October 29, 2023 Report this