Florida lawmakers are looking at studying whether radioactive phosphogypsum can be recycled and used in the state’s road construction projects.
The Senate Transportation Committee approved SB 1258 to consider using the waste from fertilizer manufacturing despite objections from environmentalists during the hearing.
“I believe Floridians and their health and their environment will suffer,” said Jane Blais, an anti-phosphate mining advocate. “We will make an old maxim come true, which is that all roads to hell are paved with good intentions.”
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), phosphogypsum “emits radon, a radioactive gas. It also contains the radioactive elements uranium, thorium and radium.”
But Sen. Jay Trumbull, the bill’s sponsor, argued recycling phosphogypsum could be an answer to the state’s supply chain problems with road construction materials. Lawmakers also acknowledged they are trying to find a good use to get rid of the giant stacks of phosphogypsum, which Trumbull called “some of the state’s tallest land features.”
“If we did not recycle this, do we have any other options to use with this material?” Sen. Tracie Davis asked Trumbull during Monday’s hearing.
No, Trumbull said, adding phosphogypsum “would just continue to be stacked” as required under state and federal law.
Florida Polytechnic University estimates 1 billion tons of phosphogypsum stacked in the state with 30 million new tons added every year, according to staff analysis of the bill.
“The goal is to try to find a suitable use for phosphogypsum for other things rather than these stacks just being there for periods of time and then potentially being a burden on the state,” Trumbull said.
Trumbull, a Republican from Panama City, did not provide an answer when a lawmaker asked how much Florida Department of Transportation’s study on the issue could cost.
The EPA originally approved using phosphogypsum for some government road construction projects in October 2020, but then changed course and withdrew support a few months later in June 2021.
Sen. Victor Torres, a Democrat from Kissimmee who voted against the bill, said he wanted the EPA to provide more clarity.
Sen Jason Pizzo, who voted in favor of the proposed legislation, argued lawmakers were only voting Monday to study the concept.
“I read Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ too many times in high school, so I appreciate the concern, but we should be ‘yes.’ It’s a study, we should move forward,” said Pizzo, a Democrat from Hollywood.
March 25, 2023 at 7:26 am
I am opposed to SB 1258! Radon is not safe, period! Experimental road tests by FDOT have been proven to fail in 5 years or less and require another reconstruction. Whats the cost to tax payer when FDOT has to replace? ALL phosphogysum leeches into our valuable water ways and contaminant our very porous ground soil. I also believe this leads to cancer “hot spots” in the community. Look at White Springs, FL where the road tests were conducted.
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