The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has quietly approved the use of phosphogypsum for roadbuilding.
This is a major change in a discussion that has been occurring for decades as the phosphate industry has regularly pushed for approval to find a use for this waste that is now stored in massive stacks near fertilizer plants.
Phosphogypsum is slightly radioactive and contains trace amounts of a number of toxic elements such as arsenic and cadmium.
The change was announced in an Oct. 14 press release.
EPA’s earlier ban that dates to 1992 was based on a concern that if the material were used for a road and the road were abandoned and the land was later used for a homesite, residents might be exposed to the radiation through exposure to radon. Radon is a gas.
The revised rule prohibits the abandonment of the road to be used for another purpose, so it seems that issue is covered. There are other restrictions.
What constitutes a harmful exposure to radon has been the subject of decades of pushback from the phosphate industry toward EPA regulations, too.
That’s another issue to watch as agency heads under the Trump Administration are rushing to enact a bunch of rule changes as Trump’s term ends in case (we hope) he is not re-elected.
The EPA’s change of heart is reportedly linked to a study published by The Fertilizer Institute that was persuasive enough for an agency that probably didn’t need much persuading under the current regime.
The unanswered question is whether any bid specifications for local road projects will allow contractors to use this stuff instead of limerock for road base material.
According to the EPA press release, any roads built using phosphogypsum will require public notice.
This will be a developing saga.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but most people who have bothered to comment about a plan to jam new toll roads through much of what’s left of rural Florida are against it.
The figures were contained in an analysis released today by No Roads To Ruin, a coalition of environmental and other public interest organizations that includes Florida Sierra Club.
Specifically, 93 percent of the public comments were opposed to the projects. These projects were the result of lobbying by the road-building industry and other special interest that produced legislati0on that was rammed through the 2019 session by Senate President Bill Galvano.
One corridor runs from Lakeland to the Naples area. A second would run from north of the Tampa Bay area to the Georgia border. A third corridor would connect the northern corridor with the Florida Turnpike.
The No Roads To Ruin report comes less than a week before the final meetings of the task forces appointed to study issues related to building new roads through three designated corridors running from the Everglades to the Georgia border.
The task forces were only allowed to develop some guidelines and principles to be used in implementing whatever project state transportation officials decide to pursue using the money appropriated by legislators and within the timeline laid out in the law.
Galvano and other road backers argue new highways are needed to relieve traffic congestion, ease hurricane evacuation and promote economic development in struggling rural areas of the state.
Opponents contend the roads are unnecessary, will destroy remaining intact wildlife corridors, encourage urban sprawl and are not financially feasible.
The final reports are due in Tallahassee by Nov. 15.
The No Roads To Ruin coalition organizers have also questioned whether the fact that public opinion is overwhelmingly against the projects will be included in that final report.