Wastewater disasters in Florida lead environmental advocates to urge us to reconsider how we grow food

Hundreds of residents of Manatee County, Florida, were advised to evacuate on Easter weekend to avoid wastewater leaking from an abandoned phosphate plant nearby. Authorities have since drained over 170 million gallons of wastewater from the Piney Point containment area to reduce pressure on its walls, The Verge reports. The former facility traces back to the area’s history of mining for phosphate rock—a common substance used in agricultural fertilizer. What remains today are three phosphogypsum “stacks”—mounds of radiative industrial waste with pools of wastewater at their center. The long-term effects of these stacks have led some environmentalists to advocate that we rethink how we grow our food. Although phosphate is used to help grow crops, its extraction process leaves behind five tons of waste for each one ton of product; similar stacks have contaminated drinking water and natural waterways in the past.

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