POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Mosaic will continue operating its fertilizer manufacturing plants in the one time “phosphate capital of the world” after county commissioners cast their votes Tuesday.
In a unanimous vote, commissioners renewed Mosaic’s operating permit through March 2023.
Mosaic operates two plants in Polk County, in Bartow and New Wales, on the Hillsborough county line.
Given the tense situation in Piney Point and the risk of a catastrophic gypsum stack breach, some opponents called on commissioners to vote against the permit.
“We don’t want to see one more permit ever issued to Mosaic. The citizens – we’re gonna go full blast,” said Tim Ritchie, of Punta Gorda, a longtime opponent of Mosaic.
“You have not had time to provide due diligence regarding the recent emergency at the Piney Point location. We ask you to caution yourselves on the side of prudence,” said Michael Zarzano, of Englewood.
Gypsum stacks contain the by-products of phosphate manufacturing.
A Mosaic spokesperson told 8 On Your Side the company inspects its gypsum stacks every day.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection regularly does the same.
The company has systems in place to maintain appropriate water levels.
“Because we have multiple facilities with storage options and water treatment processes, Mosaic has a broad range of options for moving and treating water to maintain responsible water balances,” the company said in a statement.
While Mosaic was not involved in the former Piney Point plant, it is providing assistance during the crisis with pumps and lime water treatment.
Polk County was once considered the “phosphate capital of the world.”
“In the late 1800’s, pebble rock was discovered in the pace river. Then after that, the industry just exploded,” said Myrtice Young, historic preservation manager at the Polk County History Center, which hosts an exhibit focused on the county’s prolific history with phosphate mining and distribution.
In the past decade, Young said, the industry has transitioned to fertilizer manufacturing and distribution instead of phosphate mining.
The gypsum stacks have become an icon of the county.
“When you grow up in Polk County like I have, they become a part of the landscape,” said Young.