Recently, a group of private citizens in Union County has proposed mining for phosphate in Union County and Bradford County, Florida. This matter will go before the county commission soon. It is in the best interest of all current and future residents of Florida to oppose this action, and to contact your county commissioners as soon as possible to voice your concern. What follows below is information regarding the process of phosphate mining and how it may negatively impact our home.
Note that all of this is done at the expense of the original ecosystem (the beautiful forests of north Florida), as these places are laid bare. Proponents of the mines will point to the reclaimed land. Keep in mind that the land is only reclaimed many years after the mining is stopped. This land is planted with trees, but the trees take decades to grow. The scars of the earth movement will not heal for many generations. Those alive today to see the mining in person will not likely live long enough to see this land “reclaimed.”
In addition to being an eyesore, this will create other problems as well. Mining operations take place 24 hours per day. This means large amounts of light and noise will be coming from southern Union County and Bradford County. If you want to see how much light and noise this operation will make, travel to White Springs, Florida and observe the mining operations for yourself. The calm quiet so often observed in north Florida will be replaced by the deafening roar of heavy machinery 24 hours per day, even while you are trying to sleep.
Phosphate mining has also been linked to more directly dangerous things as well. In 1979, phosphate mining in North Carolina was linked to the discovery of radioactive forms of Radon and Radium (2). Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Given the potential health risks, and the fact that Union County already has the shortest life expectancy of any county in Florida (the average Union County resident dies at age 67, the youngest in the state of Florida ), this county can ill afford more potential risks to our health. This is especially concerning because the water from the Santa Fe River goes DIRECTLY into our drinking water (the Santa Fe River goes under ground and into the aquifer [where your drinking water comes from] at O’Leno State Park ).
Phosphate mining near the Santa Fe River could increase the turbidity (cloudiness) of the water. Any time sediments from mining are added to water, the water gets murky. If you want to see this for yourself, add a handful of dirt to a bottle of water and shake it up. This is the same thing that will be happening to the water in the Santa Fe River. For those of you who enjoy fishing on the River here or downstream (the Suwannee River and the Gulf of Mexico), understand that increasing the cloudiness of the water will have a negative impact on fish populations in those waters (5).
It should be clear to everyone by now that phosphate mining will have negative impacts on our home. The county commission will be voting on this matter soon. Between now and then, you will be hearing more from us and others on the subject. We invite you to validate all of the information provided in this article. Please contact your county commissioners for information and feel free to check these references we have provided. Together, we as residents of this fine county can stop this poor decision from becoming a reality.
1. Brown MT. Landscape restoration following phosphate mining: 30 years of co-evolution of science, industry and regulation. Ecological Engineering. 2005;24(4):309-329.
2. Strain CD, Watson JE, Jr., Fong SW. An evaluation of Ra and Rn concentrations in ground and surface water near a phosphate mining and manufacturing facility. Health Physics. 1979;37(6):779-783.
3. Union County, Florida | County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. 2016.
4. Florida State Parks. 2016; https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Oleno.
5. 2016; http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/ja/ja_henley001.pdf.
Petition to Stop Phosphate Mining in Union County
Phosphate mining is being proposed in Union County. This action will be bad for the county in the long term. Mining operations will destroy thousands of acres of scenic river-front land, will create the potential for contamination of drinking wells, will muddy the waters of the Santa Fe River, and will have the potential to lower the water levels in the river. There is also a potential to decrease the value of properties and homes in Union County (no one wants to live in homes within view of the mines). For these mines to begin, the board of county commissioners of Union County must vote to issue a special land use permit to allow mining operations. This means that these mines cannot continue if the county commission does not approve this permit. We are therefore starting a petition to ask the Union County commissioners not to approve any regulations which would permit mining. If you do not want to see these mines become reality, please sign this petition.
PLEASE NOTE. By signing this petition, you are telling the county commissioners in Union and Bradford that you DO NOT approve of phosphate mining in your county.