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Sierra Club, lawmaker demand more state, federal oversight after toxic sinkhole opens

Urging ban on new phosphate mining permits in Fla.
Posted at 6:29 PM, Nov 03, 2016
A demand for change in hopes of saving the environment and it all stems from that toxic sinkhole in Polk County. 
 
ABC Action News discovered how that change could come with a toll on workers in Florida. 
 
"I'm pissed off at the world because I don't know," said Louella Phillips, who lives two miles from the Mosaic sinkhole. 
 
Phillips, like so many others, were angered after the company kept residents in the dark for weeks about a toxic sinkhole that opened up on its New Wales plant. 
 
"It's easy for me to sit back and say I can blame them because of the sinkhole but I'm not worried about blame right now," said Phillips. "I just want to know if my kid took a bath in poisonous water."
 
Phillips became concerned when she noticed her water changing colors.  It's been tested by a private company hired by Mosaic and preliminary test results show it's clean. 
 
A group of environmentalists gathered Thursday in Haines City to call on the state to halt permit approval for any new phosphate mining operations in Florida. 
 
"There's several new mines in the pipeline," said Beveryly Griffiths with Sierra Club Florida. "It's going to have a huge impact on Florida's wetlands and rivers."
 
Griffiths said the group would like to see the industry put to a stop, citing ongoing environmental concerns. 
 
But that would mean an end to a major economic driver for Florida. 
 
Phosphate mining contributes to more than 6,000 jobs between two companies, Mosaic and CF Industries, INC. 
 
“Florida is presently providing approximately 75 percent of the nation’s supply of phosphate fertilizer and about 25 percent of the world supply," according to Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute. 
 
Sen. Darren Soto, a democrat from Polk County, doesn't want to see an end to the industry but says it needs more regulation on the state and federal level. 
 
"I'm not calling, personally, for a prohibition. I just think that we need the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers more involved," said Sen. Soto. 
 
Mosaic officials released a statement regarding calls for halting additional phosphate mining in light of Polk County's toxic sinkhole. 
 
"Those who want to shut down the phosphate industry are doing a disservice to the local community by suggesting the drinking water supply is anything but safe. With more than two months of water quality data available, reflecting the results of 1,039 drinking water wells, we have seen no offsite impacts. We remain confident in our efforts to recover the impacted water and implement a remediation plan to fill the sinkhole.
 
Shutting down one of Florida’s most important industries would also put 4,000 of their neighbors out of work and jeopardize our work to help farmers throughout 
America grow the food we need."