Florida Phosphate Industry Practices Severely Disturb Navigable Waterways
Florida is known as the “Sunshine State”, but interestingly receives more rainfall than most states in the Union. Florida receives enormous amounts of yearly rainfall from north to south every year. About fifty percent of the annual rainfall is absorbed into the ground and “contained” in watersheds. Central Floridas watersheds as a whole cover an area the size of the great state of Rhode Island.
The Florida landscape certainly contains or “holds” enough rainwater on a yearly average to naturally recharge local freshwater aquifers, rivers, streams, springs, lakes, watersheds, and lowlands. The central peninsular region of Florida “contains” about fifty percent of yearly rainwater for west central Floridas, including the Tampa Bay area, drinking water.
Curiously, enough rain falls in Florida annually to cover the entire state in five and a half feet of rainwater. The volume of rain described above continues naturally year after year. However, central Florida is not known for flooding by summers usual daily tropical downpours, or when tropical storms drop heavy rain, the water just seems to disappear right before your eyes.
How and where is all that water contained you may ask? The Florida landscape and sub-surface is made up of a particular hydrogeological material called karst rock (limestone based), along with other types of porous sands and clays. These materials are naturally porous so gravity can move ground water as though the water is being mechanically pumped through the grounds sub-surface. Without this type of landscape, Floridas citizens would not have enough natural drinking water resources.
Floridan Aquifer Floats On Saltwater Base
Florida land floats on a bubble of freshwater called the Floridan aquifer which in turn supports multiple levels of smaller aquifers one upon another in the central Florida earths sub-surface. All of which are fed with rainwater by gravity through the many conduits of earthen materials into the Florida landscape refilled by yearly average rainfall amounts.
The Floridan (1) aquifer precariously floats on a saltwater base hydraulically held in place by the Gulf of Mexico on the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Saltwater infiltrates the limestone base of Floridas sub-surface where the Floridan aquifer bubble is resting or “floating” on a saltwater base.
The mass of the freshwater contained in the earths sub-surface compresses the saltwater base. When the weight of the freshwater bubble contained in the sub-surface falls below a particular level, saltwater intrusion makes up the differences in contained water pressure. Lower freshwater mass causes saltwater to infiltrate Floridas freshwater resources causing degraded fresh drinking water quality and quantity. These symptoms are affecting drinking water for millions of Florida taxpayers daily.
The explanation above on how ground water moves through the Florida earth is given to help the reader understand why phosphate strip mining is detrimental to safe drinking water statewide. Knowing how the ground beneath ones feet holds and moves fresh water is paramount to understanding why phosphate strip mining is so invasive that it threatens an entire region of Floridas drinking water quantity and quality.
Phosphate mining removes the earths surface fabric including natural tributaries, streams, springs, aquifers, and the like which naturally holds central Floridas drinking water. Phosphate industry practices create these severe environmental impacts that cannot be reversed because the technology to do so does not exist.
Once the mighty dragline strips the karst rock formations from the earth surface, all the once “contained water” now inundates the local area flooding the mined spoil piles and pits with unmeasured wasted amounts of Floridas public aquifer water drinking resources. Some of these pits are a square mile in surface area and can be two-hundred feet in height. That is equivalent to a twenty story building spanning one square mile.
Aquifer Water Wasted Daily
Daily, billions of gallons of fresh drinking water from local aquifers is completely wasted in the mined pits for an indefinite amount of time or until the water evaporates. Either way, unmetered aquifer water is being wasted daily by Floridas phosphate industry and paid for by Floridas taxpayers. This is shown by Google Maps looking at the central Florida landscape around Fort Meade and Polk County. All the severe environmental impacts can be seen by all who seek.
Central Florida watersheds supply over six million people with safe drinking water. Almost five million of those people live near the greater Tampa Bay area, which is the largest estuary in the state. More freshwater resources flow from area watersheds into Tampa Bay than anywhere else in central Florida. The Tampa Bay Estuary contains over 200 species of fish, including big game fish such as tarpon, snook, redfish, and sea bass or grouper. Numerous mangrove islands support a diverse set of waterfowl nesting areas. Charlotte Harbor is just eighty miles south and is the second largest estuary in the state with as many freshwater resources in danger from the phosphate industry as well.
Unfortunately, Central Florida is where phosphate mega-mining occurs daily. Phosphate industry officials want phosphate ore (2) that sits beneath the richest environmentally challenged hydrological freshwater producing, earthen framework on the face of the earth.
Central Florida contains the lions share of the 27 phosphate mines located in Florida as a whole. Over a half million acres of isolated riparian wetlands and riparian wetlands linked to state (public) navigable waters are at the mercy of Floridas phosphate officials. Curiously, state (public) navigable waterways seem to be severely disturbed by strip mining the central Florida landscape.
Historically, phosphate officials appear to refuse to be good environmental stewards and are intent on removing anything or anyone in their quest for phosphate, including Central Floridas (public) navigable waterways and drinking water resources.
The central Florida areas mentioned above being strip mined are riparian in nature and contain navigable waterways as well. If so, then state officials may step in and curtail any illegal practices and secure funds from phosphate officials to repair severely damaged landscapes caused by phosphate industry practices. However, there are no publically mentioned plans to do so.
Read more from Davey Crockett @ Florida Mines Directory
1.Natural history. – swfwmd.state.fl.us/education/interactive/peaceriver/natural.php.
2.Phosphate Mines. – dep.state.fl.us/water/mines/manpho.htm.