Fertilizer Producer Settles with Feds

Monday, October 5, 2015 @ 05:10 PM gHale

Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC reached a settlement with the Feds that will ensure the proper treatment, storage, and disposal of an estimated 60 billion pounds of hazardous waste at six Mosaic facilities in Florida and two in Louisiana.

The settlement, with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ), resolves a series of violations by Mosaic, one of the world’s largest fertilizer manufacturers, of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which provides universal guidelines for how hazardous waste must be stored, handled and disposed.

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The 60 billion pounds of hazardous waste addressed in this case is the largest amount ever covered by a federal or state RCRA settlement and will ensure wastewater at Mosaic’s facilities ends up properly managed and does not pose a threat to groundwater resources.

At Mosaic’s eight facilities in Florida and Louisiana, hazardous waste from fertilizer production ends up stored in large piles, tanks, ditches and ponds; the piles can reach 500 feet high and cover more than 600 acres, making them some of the largest manmade waste piles in the United States. The piles can also contain several billion gallons of highly acidic wastewater, which can threaten human health and cause severe environmental damage if it reaches groundwater or local waterways.

Under the settlement, Mosaic Fertilizer will establish a $630 million trust fund, which will end up invested until it reaches full funding of $1.8 billion. These funds will cover the future closure of and treatment of hazardous wastewater at four Mosaic facilities: The Bartow, New Wales and Riverview plants in Florida and the Uncle Sam plant in Louisiana, as well as the long-term care of those facilities and three additional facilities already undergoing closure.

The Mosaic Company, Mosaic Fertilizer’s parent company, will provide financial guarantees for this work, and the settlement also requires Mosaic Fertilizer to submit a $50 million letter of credit.

Mosaic will also spend $170 million on projects to reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing and waste management programs at its facilities and $2.2 million on two local environmental projects. Mosaic will also pay a $5 million civil penalty to the United States and $1.55 million to the State of Louisiana and $1.45 million to the State of Florida, who joined EPA and DoJ as plaintiffs in this case.

The violations in this case stem from storage and disposal of waste from the production of phosphoric and sulfuric acids, key components of fertilizers, at Mosaic’s facilities in Bartow, Lithia, Mulberry and Riverview, Florida and St. James and Uncle Sam, Louisiana. Mosaic failed to properly treat, store, and dispose of hazardous waste, and also failed provide adequate financial assurance for closure of its facilities, officials said.

As part of EPA’s National Enforcement Initiative for mining and mineral processing, the agency required phosphate fertilizer production facilities to reduce the storage volumes of hazardous wastewaters, ensure waste piles and ponds have environmentally-protective barriers installed, and verify the structural stability of waste piles and ponds.