Water-Related News

City of Largo sold contaminated fertilizer for months, records show

State and federal regulators are lobbing penalties a year after a whistleblower raised concerns.

Richard Mushaben feared for months that the city of Largo was selling fertilizer tainted with a toxic element that can cause cancer at high concentrations.

Mushaben is a biosolids operator at the city’s wastewater reclamation facility, where he helps treat human sewage and convert it into fertilizer products. Those products are sold to private companies, who spread the fertilizer pellets onto lawns, parks and golf courses.

The city was selling fertilizer contaminated with cadmium, he alleged in a January 2022 whistleblower letter to state and federal environmental regulators. When he tried to stop the sales, his supervisors told him to “stop monitoring cadmium levels,” he claimed.

More than a year after Mushaben raised red flags, both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Florida environment regulators are lobbing penalties at the city after an investigation proved the city illegally sold more than 1,000 tons of contaminated fertilizer.

The city now faces more than $100,000 in fines, records show.