The EPA approved road construction use under the Donald Trump administration, then with the change of Presidents came a change in policy.
“Upon further review, EPA has determined that the approval was premature and should be withdrawn because the request did not contain all of the required information,” the EPA announced in 2021. “With this action, phosphogypsum remains prohibited from use in road construction projects.”
The use of such a potentially dangerous substance drew pause from environmental and worker advocates.
“We think that this bill is going to expose the public — especially nearby, long-term residents and construction workers — to radiation from radium-226, which occurs naturally with the phosphate ore, and also from its decay product, radon, which is a well-recognized carcinogen, and polonium, also a carcinogen and also sometimes associated with Russian assassinations,” said David Cullen, representing the Sierra Club.
For every ton of phosphorus produced, the process also turns out five tons of phosphogypsum. There are around 1 billion tons of phosphogypsum divided among 24 stacks in Florida, with 30 million new tons created annually.
“Part of (the process) is absolutely going to contemplate the health and safety of folks who are coming into contact with it, and of course to the extent it’s being used underneath our roadways — whether in a blend or by itself — vehicles are going to be driving on it, and how they interact, I imagine, would be a critical part of the study,” McClure said.
The bill’s language states the legislation won’t affect the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permitting of gypstack systems pursuant to existing Florida law.
The EPA banned use of phosphogypsum in 1989, but the rule opened for limited agricultural use a few years later.
The committee approved HB 1191 by a 14-5 vote.