One of the most toxic places in America is Florida. One of Florida’s biggest industries and best kept secrets is phosphate mining. The state accounts for around 70 percent of all phosphate mining done in the country.
For every one ton of usable phosphate, there’s five tons of radioactive rock left behind. Florida is so radioactive that the Fountain of Youth is closed due to radioactivity. According to the World Health Organization, long-term exposure to radiation even at low levels can dramatically increase the risk of dying from cancer. In 2011, cancer became the leading cause of death in Florida.
In the explosive new documentary, ‘Phosfate,’ cancer survivor and filmmaker Erik E. Crown joins local water activists to investigate accelerated cancer rates and other illnesses in central Florida communities, tracing the source to phosphate mining and the pollution of the state’s waterways by multinational corporation, The Mosaic Company. Even though the company was fined by the EPA in 2015 for 2 billion dollars in damages for the mishandling of 60 billion pounds of hazardous waste, it continues its practices and is seeking to expand operations to DeSoto County. ‘Phosfate’ will be released amongst the ongoing efforts of the people of DeSoto County who are currently fighting to keep Mosaic from opening the brand new mine in their county.
Cinema Libre has now released the film on DVD and Video on Demand (Vimeo) with additional platforms to follow. The DVD has the following bonus features: Trailer, Closed captions and two extended interviews.
In 2016, one of the deepest sinkholes ever recorded in Florida opened beneath Mosaic’s New Wales Plant in Polk County, damaging stacks of phosphogypsum, or “gypstacks,” a mountain-like hazardous waste, radioactive byproduct that occurs when phosphate ore is processed into fertilizer.
The sinkhole led to an estimated 215 million gallons of contaminated, radioactive water draining into a local aquifer. It took the company two years to seal the leak. In March of 2021, a rupture at the former Piney Point phosphate plant sent hundreds of millions of gallons of toxic water into Tampa Bay. Piney Point is just one of 25 gypsum stacks that exist in Florida.
The residents of Bone Valley, Florida have cancer rates 6 times higher than the national average. This region of central Florida has the largest deposits of the naturally occurring chemical phosphorous, which is mined to make fertilizer. As the chemical is processed, using over 70 million gallons of groundwater, each ton leaves behind 5 times the amount of radioactive rock.
Polk County, Florida resident, Louella Phillips, shares in the film, “But yet we’re living in this every day, and it’s higher than a radiation treatment. And our kids come here. Because of our health surveys, we found out people who just live within a certain radius of the GypStacks and stuff, they’re getting sick. A large percentage of the children in this area have autism. There’s birth defects. There’s miscarriages, heart disease, high blood pressure is a big one in this area. Kidney failure is a big one. Lung cancer, huge. I’ve had lumps in my breast. I’ve had two biopsies before I was 40. And I’ve had cysts that turned into tumors on my ovaries.”
One of the largest landholders in Florida, The Mosaic Company owns over 300,000 acres allocated to mining. As the largest industry in the state, mining over 16 million tons of phosphate rock per year, it is self-regulated and required by the county and state government to only report on balanced Ph levels.
The company dilutes its outfall by pumping it through the state’s waterways. Mosaic isn’t only affecting the water in Florida, the toxic leftovers from mining become hydrofluorosilicic acid, which is then sold to municipalities all across America to be placed into the drinking water.
“The company that gets rid of highly toxic wastes by selling them as a “product” to municipal water departments across the country as cheap fluoridation chemicals has been fined $2 billion for gross violations of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), reports the Fluoride Action Network (FAN). “Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC, is one of the largest sellers of a toxic fluoride chemical, “fluorosilicic acid”, that cities add to public drinking water. For decades Mosaic has been selling fluoridation chemicals to public drinking water systems across the U.S. This Kafkaesque scheme, approved by EPA, benefits the polluter in the belief that it helps the teeth of the poor, according to FAN.”
Environmental issues have played an unusually large role in the state of Florida, in part due to the explosion of two blooms of algae that have crippled part of the state’s tourism economy and killed hundreds of thousands of fish and wildlife. There are many factors driving these blooms, but scientists believe that the mining of phosphorous is one of them. Mining this mineral is huge business in Florida.
Mosaic is not the only bad player out there. What is happening in Florida is sadly not the exception, it’s a standard operating procedure, and every town and city faces the same challenges in maintaining access to clean water.
Economic Environmental injustice is the practice of corporations and processing plants releasing their leftovers and toxic water discharges into the public waterways of lower-income areas with support and permits from the state. People that live in these areas face higher cancer rates, and more chronic illnesses.
Taking advantage of low-income communities worldwide, these corporations think the communities will not be able to raise a loud enough voice to object, but the activists in Florida have shown that you can win the David vs. Goliath battle – a fight every town is now facing for the future of environmental and personal health of the planet. It’s important we finally address this practice, challenge it, and change it in order to help prevent future cancers and chronic illnesses for generations to come.
‘Phosfate’ Director Erik E. Crown works with the residents of Arcadia, Florida, a sleepy agricultural city that is ground zero in the battle against Mosaic. After seeing their families and friends impacted by accelerated rates of cancer and other illnesses, the residents of these communities are fighting back by taking water samples, delving into the company’s “reclamation” programs, organizing protests, participating in town halls, and becoming a unified voice to fight for a cleaner future for the next generation.
The film features prolific water activists such as Molly Bowen, Jeremy Block, Louella Phillips, Garrett Ramy, Norma Killebrew, Karl Deigert, Gary O. Pittman, and Stel Bailey. ‘Phosfate’ hopes to activate a nationwide campaign to force Congress to re-visit the Safe Drinking Water Act to tighten regulations and implement mandatory drinking water regulations, as well as requiring additional studies of the chemicals currently found in the nation’s drinking water.
‘Phosfate’s’ investigation uncovers why corporate pollution continues today and why people in communities worldwide face the same issues as those in Florida. It begs the question – what’s in your water?
GreenMed Info readers can take 30% off the Phosfate DVD and Vimeo rent/buy for 30 days using code GMED30