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Billboard catching eyes in North Port

Published By: mysuncoast.com

Driving through North Port on I-75 you will see a new sign greeting you. Not a welcome sign, but a billboard condemning the phosphate industry. A local group is paying for the billboard which says the industry doesn't feed the world rather it pollutes it.

Glenn Compton with the environmental watch dog group Manasota-88 says they just spent thousands on this new sign entering North Port. "When you turn on your TV and you see the commercials for the phosphate industry and it's impacts on Florida it's all just a very positive image. There is another side to the story that needs to be told."

He says the process which helps make fertilizer is bad for the environment. "It starts with the strip mining. It goes into the processing and ends up as a cradle to grave operation with the disposal of radioactive phosphogypsum."

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Unfortunately lacking scientific evidence to support their arguments they resort to scare tactics." Russell Schweiss is a spokesperson for the Mosaic company. The largest phosphate miners in the state. He says the claims simply are not true. "There are environmental protections in place now that make any impact minimal and we reclaim every acre we mine. Any wetland is restored."

Currently there is no mining here in Sarasota county where the sign is located. However, those with the organization say it's impacts could be felt here. That's because Compton says mining is taking place to the north and south. "We are on the receiving end here because we do get our water from the Charlotte Harbor and Peace River basin. Everybody including those who live in Sarasota need to be concerned."

Schweiss says the industry has evolved over the years. Taking precautions not to disrupt the nearby environment. "Four separate judges have heard exhaustive testimony over this issue. In all cases all four judges determined current mining practices do not adversely impact the Peace River quality or quantity."

Compton says the industry has spent millions to project an image. Now his organization hopes to spend more like this to project what he says is the truth. "We want to continue to expand the message. We would like to see both sides of the story told. Not just the industries side."

Currently a judge has ordered work halted at the mining project near the Peace River watershed in Hardee county because of a lawsuit between mosaic and environmental groups including Manasota-88.

For more information log onto www.ourphosphaterisk.com www.mosaicco.com

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