The fight continues in Manatee County between one of the area’s big employers and many residents in the eastern part of the county.
The Mosaic Company wants to expand their mining operations, but many of their neighbors fear another environmental mess like the one in Lake Wales in Polk County.
Dozens of people showed up and spoke out at a second full day of public comment hearings on Monday held by the Manatee County Commissioners in a Land Use Meeting. The Commissioners are deciding whether to allow Mosaic change the zoning of one of their properties called Wingate East from "agricultural" to "extraction." The 3,596 acres of Wingate East is currently used to raise cattle and other agricultural activities. Mosaic wants to begin mining for phosphate, as they do in adjoining properties in Manatee County.
"It's chemicals. I have an organic farm. I can’t use chemicals in my organic farm," Tracey Dang tells ABC Action News. Her property is right across the street from the Mosaic property in question, and fears the mining process would make the land too contaminated to grow certified organic food.
"It's not just my organic farm, it's our natural resources, it's our very precious land and water," adds Dang.
Dang was among the many who spoke at the hearing on Monday asking the commissioners to reject the Mosaic's zoning request. The Commissioners are also set to vote on a change to the Mining Master Plan to reflect the zoning change.
Many of the Manatee County residents also fear a repeat of the kind of toxic sinkhole that opened up in Lake Wales. The Mosaic Company points out that the facility in Lake Wales is a fertilizer manufacturing facility, which uses "gypstacks" that reportedly were the cause of the sinkhole.
The Commissioners still need to deliberate on the hearings and have scheduled a third meeting for February 15, at 9 a.m.
If Mosaic's plans are approved, Mosaic would still need a permit from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers before moving forward with the changes.