Latest from Gopher
Gopher Resource did not agree to an interview for this story. Last month, Tampa Bay Times reporters sent the company key findings from their investigation and questions in writing. Gopher did not answer the questions, but issued a series of statements to the newspaper.
The company sent the following statement on Nov. 12:
Protecting our people, our community, and the environment is always the top priority of Gopher Resource. We continue to work in cooperation with the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to identify ways in which we can best accomplish those goals while recycling more than 25 million lead batteries a year that would otherwise end up in landfills.
When Gopher purchased the plant in 2006, the company began an ambitious $230 million modernization program at the Tampa facility, with $140 million dedicated to environmental, safety and health improvements.
A new management team took over in 2018 and immediately increased the annual investment in safety and environmental protection to approximately 25% of its operating budget. Since 2012, these collective efforts have had tangible effects at the Gopher plant, and that trend continues today.
The air quality around Gopher this year is 80% better than the Environmental Protection Agency standards require. The ambient air around the plant is tested weekly, and sometimes twice per week, at both regularly scheduled and unannounced times. These testing results irrefutably show that any emissions that could be attributable to Gopher remain far below EPA standards.
The Tampa Bay Times’s reporting increasingly appears purposefully calculated to portray Gopher in a false light. The reporting distorts history to fit a preconceived narrative and ignores the fact that the bulk of the allegations did not occur under current leadership, which took over in 2018. Just as one of several egregious examples, the Times boldly claims that Gopher “has released more lead into the air than any other business in Florida,” but fails to state that the ambient air monitors around Gopher are the only ones in the entire state of Florida that even monitor for ambient air lead emissions, that lead emissions from Gopher have been and continue to be well below any applicable national ambient air lead emission standards established by EPA, and that other locations throughout the state produce more lead emissions than Gopher. The Times’s slanted coverage is a disservice to the community and its readers.
Gopher remains laser focused on our core value of protecting people and the community, while engaging in the environmentally important business of recycling batteries.
On Nov. 15, Times reporters further explained findings to Gopher and asked the company questions about the unannounced monitoring referenced in its statement. The company declined to answer the questions but sent the following statement on Nov. 17:
We stand by our previous statement and reiterate that as a result of our substantial investment and collective efforts, air quality has continually improved - the latest measurements show air quality around our plant is now more than 80% below the EPA standard.
The Times shared additional findings with Gopher on Nov. 18. Reporters also sent questions in writing about the company’s practices on the days it knows government monitors are measuring the amount of lead in the community air.
Gopher declined to answer the questions and issued a third statement:
The Gopher Resource commitment to protecting our people, our community, and the environment includes complying with the letter and spirit of all applicable federal and state regulations. As we noted previously, since the new management team joined the company in 2018, approximately 25% of our operating budget has been spent on health, safety and environmental stewardship. We are fully cooperative, transparent, and act with integrity in all our dealings with regulatory agencies as we strive to continually enhance our safety and environmental protection efforts. Any suggestion to the contrary is patently false.
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