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Guest Opinion

Greenwashing & Phosphate Mining


Organizations willing to accept money from phosphate strip-mining companies ensure that such polluters are insulated from criticism by buying their silence on environmentally destructive practices.

Environmental organizations should not accept money from polluting industries. Such environmental organizations will likely be discredited if they do so, not only by policymakers and the media but also by their membership.

The public continues to be misled by contradictory statistics and rhetoric from the phosphate industry. The costs of pollution, destruction of wetlands and other natural resources, and contamination of surface waters have never been computed. If the latter were accomplished, the negative economic impact of phosphate mining would be even more apparent.

The impact of phosphate mining on the economy is minor compared to the tourism, retirement, and related support service industries that are largely dependent upon potable water. Clearly, the net economic advantages of ensuring a safe source of potable water far outweigh the modest economic gains that may be realized by permitting mining in drinking water watersheds. Over 100,000 acres of phosphate mining have already occurred in the Peace River watershed, and nearly 60,000 additional acres of mining are being proposed. The phosphate industry is asking for permission to risk the health and well-being of our current and future drinking water supplies; thus far, the State of Florida has decided to allow that risk.

Phosphate industry proponents point to their marginally successful and isolated reclamation projects as justification for mining. Their small successes in mining reclamation projects are minor compared to the threats posed by strip mining and phosphate processing activities.

The phosphate industry has had over 70 years to figure out how to dispose of its radioactive gypsum wastes in an environmentally acceptable manner, but it has yet to do so. Instead, the industry has dumped in excess of 152 million tons of radioactive gypsum waste in Florida and is producing tens of millions of tons of waste annually, and the industry continues to expand its dumping operations. Will industry representatives ever owe up to the fact that the legacy they leave behind will be one of public health risks and environmental disasters?

The areas phosphate companies are planning to strip-mine contain significant habitat for Bald Eagles, Scrub Jays, Gopher Tortoises, and Eastern Indigo Snakes, as well as several plant species listed as endangered or threatened. Wetland functions will likely be lost for 20 to 30 years because of mining.

The little bit of mitigation that is required by law for mining companies does not come close to replacing the environmental functions and values of native habitat lost as a result of the massive amount of land being destroyed during strip-mining operations.

While ManaSota-88 resources can't compete with the public relations money being poured into Florida by the phosphate industry from everything from children prating commercials extolling the virtues of phosphate mining to bringing speakers in from industry lobbying groups to public relation employees giving interviews to the media, we can continue to tell the truth about the phosphate industry.

ManaSota-88 has not and will not accept any money or contributions from any polluting industry.

Glenn Compton is the Chairman of ManaSota 88, a non-profit organization that has spent over 30 years fighting to protect the environment of Manatee and Sarasota counties.


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