Hours of comments, concerns about Manatee phosphate mining

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Manatee County commissioners got an earful on Monday from people against, and for phosphate mining in the eastern part of the county.

That's where Mosaic is asking the county to rezone thousands of acres of land that the company currently owns.

Monday's public comment meeting stretched from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with a few breaks throughout.

The majority of people asked, even begged county officials to say no to rezoning.

For Tracey Dang, what happens next-door will make or break her dream of running an organic farm.

"I can throw farther than where their property starts," Dang said. "I can no longer start this farm."

She said, topographically, Mosaic would be above her property and whatever happens there would flow down to her.

"It's chemicals," Dang said. "I have an organic farm. I can't use chemicals in my organic farm. I will never become certified organic."

She came to Monday's Manatee County commission meeting to ask officials not to approve Mosaic's application to rezone nearly 3,600 acres of land in the Myakka City area.

The land, part of its Wingate East property, would be used for phosphate mining.

One after another, people spoke against the idea.

One man asked, "Why should I have to tolerate night lights and 24/7 heavy earth moving equipment running, vibrating my home and windows and disrupting my animals?"

"Is this company really reliable? They are not responsible and I feel they're not trustworthy," said Barbara Angelucci.

"It's not like, oh, I accidentally shrunk your sweater. This is playing with our future," said Mark Manning with Stand Up Fight Back SRQ.

Much of the apprehension stems from what happened last fall at Mosaic's Mulberry property.

A sinkhole opened up under a gypsum stack, leaking 215 million gallons of potentially radioactive water into the aquifer.

Mosaic officials are adamant that the Manatee facility is not the same.

"We are not proposing any of the things that happened in Polk County here today," said Bart Arrington, Mosaic Senior Manager of Land Management. "Their concerns, I understand them, and we have them, too. We make sure we address in our application."

Mosaic employees weren't the only ones there to show their support.

"I don't feel Mosaic is here to plunder Florida," said Linda Eneix who lives in Myakka City. "They are not mining diamonds so the world can sparkle. They are mining something that is an essential nutrient that we need to keep enough food growing to feed everyone that lives on this planet."

With so much at stake, even those in favor of rezoning told commissioners, they don't envy their position.

"It's not only just my organic farm," said Dang. "It's our natural resources and it's our very precious land and water."

After two meetings, public comment on this issue is now over.

The next meeting is on February 15th.

Commissioners plan to go back and forth with Mosaic officials in regards to peoples' comments, questions and concerns.