November 30, 2021
Located in a region known as the “Bone Valley,” Polk County and the surrounding area are home to the largest known deposits of phosphate in the United States. In fact, Polk County has been part of the Sunshine State’s phosphate industry for more than a century! Phosphate production began here in the 1880s, when family-run operations made phosphate fertilizers for local farmers. An essential ingredient in crop production, phosphate helps farmers put food on our tables and is also found in many products we use in daily life — like toothpaste!
Polk County is also home to the City of Mulberry, Florida, which has been known as the Phosphate Capital of the World!
Phosphate operations support nearly 3,000 jobs in Florida, including around 1,500 Polk County residents. Today, Florida produces 65 percent of the phosphate used in the United States, and Polk County plays a critical role in making it happen.
Gypstacks are a heavily regulated, federal requirement for storing phosphogypsum, a normal byproduct of the phosphate manufacturing process. Stacks resemble flattened pyramids, and are used because regulations enacted by the EPA thirty years ago required it. There are seventeen (17) gypstacks in Polk County, each containing millions of tons of phosphogypsum. The world has changed in the past thirty years — and so has science — which has discovered more than fifty-five (55) beneficial use opportunities for phosphogypsum currently stored in stacks.
Innovative recycling opportunities exist to repurpose phosphogypsum and give it a useful life. Phosphogypsum can be used to build roads, replant forests and as a source of important rare earth elements, it can even help power critical technologies used in national defense. These beneficial uses will be good for the economy and good for the environment, too. As gypstacks get smaller and eventually become obsolete, more land in Polk County will be available for conservation and wildlife habitat.
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