EPA to help treat 60 billion pounds of waste in new settlement

In their most expansive settlement yet, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice will work with Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC to ensure the proper treatment, storage and disposal of approximately 60 billion pounds of hazardous waste.

The settlement resolves a series of alleged violations by Mosaic, one of the world's largest fertilizer manufacturers, of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which provides universal waste compliance guidelines for how hazardous byproducts must be stored, handled and disposed.

The 60 billion pounds of waste, from six Mosaic facilities in Florida and two in Louisiana, is the largest amount ever covered by a federal or state RCRA settlement. The settlement will also ensure that wastewater at Mosaic's facilities is properly managed and does not contribute to groundwater contamination

At its Florida and Louisiana facilities, Mosaic stores the hazardous byproducts of its fertilizer production in large piles, tanks, ditches and ponds. These 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 acidic wastewater they contain can pose a health threat if it contaminates local waterways or groundwater, making appropriate treatment of this waste even more pressing.

In its settlement with the EPA and DOJ, Mosaic agreed to establish a trust fund to cover the future closure of and treatment of hazardous wastewater at four of its facilities, as well as the long-term care of those facilities and three additional facilities that are already undergoing closure. Mosaic will establish the fund with an initial deposit of $630 million, which will be invested until it reaches full funding of $1.8 billion.

An additional $170 million of Mosaic funding will go to projects that reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing and waste management programs at its facilities. Two local environmental projects will also benefit from $2.2 million in funding from Mosaic. 

The case represents a major victory for clean water and public health advocates across Florida and Louisiana, says Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

"Mining and mineral processing facilities generate more toxic and hazardous waste than any other industrial sector," said Giles. "Reducing environmental impacts from large fertilizer manufacturers operations is a national priority for EPA, as part of our commitment to pursuing cases that have the biggest impact on protecting public health."

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