About 30 people from several counties spoke out against the phosphate mining application at the Bradford County’s commission meeting Thursday night, with the board deciding it needed more time to review the application submitted by HPS Enterprises.
After hearing public concerns for about an hour and a half, Bradford County commissioners unanimously agreed that they needed more information about phosphate mining, but did not take further action. Four people said they supported the proposed mining application.
However, the majority of commissioners said there is no need to pull the permit application quite yet.
“It’s not like they’re gonna start digging tomorrow,” commissioner Kenny Thompson said.
But Commissioner Danny Riddick said that, although he is not for or against phosphate mining, he needs all the facts and wants the maximum amount of time to review so he wants to pull the permit.
“This concerns everybody. It’s not really about jobs or anything. This is about water,” Riddick said. “In my opinion, we’re being run over by a freight train.”
Commissioners Eddie Lewis, Thompson and Riddick declined to give any further comment after the meeting.
On May 3, County Attorney Will Sexton said he attended a meeting with Alachua County officials, who are offering assistance with reviewing the application.
Chris Bird, Alachua County’s environmental protection director, and Ken Cornell, an Alachua County commissioner, were both in attendance to offer guidance again at Thursday’s meeting.
“I heard earlier that you don’t have expertise,” Cornell said to the Bradford County officials. “We’d like to offer that.”
Brenda Thornton, a Bradford County resident, said she hopes the board of commissioners will accept the help from Alachua County officials.
“We don’t have the experts that Alachua County has and we don’t have the experience with some of the environmental issues that they have had over there,” Thornton said.
While she was disappointed that the commissioners didn’t throw out the permit, Thornton said she was impressed with the turnout and powerful testimonies given by the citizens.
Thornton said she has been following the issue since the first meeting in February when the mining plan was initially brought up.
HPS Enterprises submitted the application for the special permit on April 21. During the following week, Bradford County officials cancelled a workshop scheduled for April 29.
Michael Stevens has a permaculture homestead near the border of Bradford and Alachua counties. He said he is very close to where the phosphate mining will take place.
Stevens, who has an environmental engineering and ecological restoration background, said restoration would have huge costs.
Stevens said there would be too many disturbances and “you’re not going to get what was once there.”
Sexton, the county attorney, said he thinks the board provided direction to the county staff.
“Our task at this point is to do some research between now and when we bring that back and provide them with the best options we can, including getting assistance from Alachua County,” he said.