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Feds reach $1.8B hazardous waste settlement with MN fertilizer company

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The Environmental Protection Agency says Plymouth-based Mosaic Fertilizer has agreed to pay $1.8 billion to settle a massive federal lawsuit over hazardous waste.

In the agreement with the EPA announced on Thursday, Mosaic pledged to clean up operations at eight sites in the south.

The EPA found the company's improper handling of its facilities had posed a threat to the environment and human health.

The Tampa Bay Times reported the EPA accused Mosaic, the world's largest phosphate mining company, of improper storage and disposal of waste from components of fertilizers, at six facilities in Florida and two sites in Louisiana.

The settlement includes fixes, improvements and cleanup.

"This case is a major victory for clean water, public health and communities across Florida and Louisiana," Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, told the Tampa Bay newspaper.

A press release from the EPA says piles of acidic hazardous waste – which could reach 500 feet high and cover more than 600 acres – could have severely impacted groundwater and waterways.

The company will close four of its facilities using a $630 million trust fund it is creating under the settlement. That money will be invested until it reaches $1.8 billion, which will pay for the closures. The company also agreed to pay $170 million on environmental cleanup and other projects.

A statement on Mosaic's website quoted the company's President and Chief Executive Officer.

"We are pleased to be bringing this matter to a close," said Joc O'Rourke. "Mosaic is committed to meaningful environmental stewardship at all of our facilities, and we take our responsibility to be good corporate citizens – now and for the decades ahead – very seriously."

The settlement deal still needs to be finalized by the courts.

Mosaic was formed in 2004 by a merger of IMC Global with the crop nutrition division of Minnesota-based Cargill.

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