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Guest column | DeeVon Quirolo

Cemex expansion plan is a bad deal for Hernando County

Cemex seeks to change the Hernando County comprehensive land use plan and zoning on 728 acres on Cortez Boulevard across from Bayfront Health Brooksville from residential and commercial to mining and commercial. For the next 20 years, we would see open-pit industrial mining along the business corridor leading into Brooksville. The only ones to benefit would be the property owners and Cemex. It's a bad deal for Hernando County. When county commissioners consider this on Tuesday, they should just say no to more mining.

In July, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted it down 4-1. Rather than recommending approval, county planning staff raised issues regarding property values, impact of mining and blasting on adjoining land uses, and the viability of reclamation.

This proposal is wrong in so many ways. Mining activities are inappropriate across the street from Bayfront Health due to the chronic aerial pollution of carcinogenic silica dust. The noise and blasting may interfere with delicate instruments, medical procedures and patient recovery.

This parcel surrounds the African-American Spring Hill Cemetery, where generations of early Hernando pioneers and war veterans are buried. The set-off of a few hundred feet will not prevent mining from producing nested insecurities in the ground that can damage the historic vaults and shows no respect for those buried there.

The proposed mining is adjacent to more than 50 homes. Mining can damage property from cracks in homes to sinkholes, will reduce property values and will diminish the health and quality of life of about 150 residents. They are opposed to more mining because of the blasting, wave tremors, dust pollution and property damage already experienced from mining farther north and don't want it even closer. Nearby are the 7,100 residents of Brooksville, our county seat, who would be exposed to the pollution. It will discourage the kind of environmentally sustainable growth that Brooksville desperately needs.

Cemex is a multinational, Mexico-based corporation that will lease the land for a highly extractive purpose without generating one new job while congesting our roads with 10-wheeled trucks that create noise and pollution.

Mining would remove 375.9 acres of hardwood forest that is rated as an underrepresented strategic habitat conservation area and eliminate the ecosystem values it now contributes. The loss of the abundant wildlife here will reduce biodiversity. Wood storks, gopher tortoises, Florida black bears, bald eagles and other endangered species and species of special concern depend upon this habitat.

Cemex plans to build a conveyor belt to deliver the rock across Fort Dade Avenue, a county-protected canopy road. But the company has not demonstrated how it plans to do so without damaging trees. And the plan to create berms to hide the mining is an ecological abomination.

The mining would draw down fresh water supplies in an area of limestone features located within the Peck Sink watershed, where the county recently invested funds to protect water quality. Mining releases sediments that can pollute natural springs and contaminate residential wells.

Greenhouse gas emissions will be generated by the smelting, refining and kiln operations of the cement plant to the north that will receive the mined rock. Cemex was cited by the EPA for mercury and dioxin emissions at this plant and paid millions of dollars in fines. This new mine would keep the plant busy while putting our health at risk. Since 2009, based on EPA reports, we've known that increased concentrations of greenhouse gases threaten the health of current and future generations of Americans.

We all have a right to clean air.

To address climate change, responsible communities are reducing their carbon footprint. Here in Hernando, the property owners of this parcel are pursuing this proposal to go back to mining. It's just not responsible when there are other, better uses for this land. Cemex has failed to demonstrate a need for mining at this location. It has other, more appropriate sites in the county, and there are other lime rock mines throughout Florida.

It's time for Hernando County — part of the Nature Coast — to move beyond the stone age to a sustainable future. The county is investing in economic growth via tourism, thanks to our abundant natural and historical resources, but you can't have it both ways. For too long, Hernando has been economically depressed; mining has been good for only a select few.

This project is a bad deal for the county. Let's move forward, not backward. Just say no to more mining. Learn more at neighborsagainstmining.org.

DeeVon Quirolo is president of Nature Coast Conservation Inc. and the Neighbors Against Mining Project.

Cemex expansion plan is a bad deal for Hernando County 12/03/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 3, 2014 5:10pm]
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