"The Wound That Won’t Heal: Idaho’s Phosphate Problem"

"An elemental phosphorus plant owned by the FMC Corp., on the Shoshone-Bannock homelands in Idaho, has been abandoned for more than a decade. But its legacy of pollution remains -- and it’s jeopardizing economic progress, public and environmental health on the reservation and in surrounding communities."

"The main ingredient, phosphate ore, was brought in by rail from mines bored into the surrounding hills, where ancient shallow seas left it in rich concentrations. Seventeen such mines in the region -- some of them still operating -- are now Superfund sites, because of selenium contamination that’s poisoning plants and wildlife.

At the height of its operation between 1949 and 2001, the FMC plant near Pocatello, Idaho produced 250 million pounds of elemental phosphorus a year from two million tons of phosphate ore, silica, and coke, a fuel related to coal. While elemental phosphorous is useful for flammable materials and fertilizers, FMC’s product was most often shipped to be converted to phosphoric acid, used in a variety of consumer products including foods, plastics, glass products, soda pop, fabrics, film and cleaning solutions."

Anne Minard reports for Indian Country Today Media Network September 25, 2013, in the first part of a three-part series.

Source: Indian Country Today, 09/26/2013