The idea of using phosphogypsum for road construction is back in this year’s legislative agenda in Tallahassee.
Two bills sponsored by Rep. Lawrence McClure R-Dover, and Sen. Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, propose that the Florida Department of Transportation study the feasibility of using this material for road base. This would be an alternative to limerock, which is typically used for road base. The study is supposed to be completed by 2024.
This coincides with a recent advertising campaign by the Florida Phosphate Council, which has appeared in some online sites promoting this idea.
The bottom line is that if phosphate companies can export the thousands of tons of material from their highly regulated stacks to other uses, it would relieve them of the perpetual responsibility of monitoring and managing these waste piles
Politically, this may be a move to consider a change in federal policy (read US Environmental Protection Agency) to allow this, depending on the outcome of the 2024 elections.
The Trump administration agreed to consider using the material for roadbuilding, but the Biden administration revoked the idea.
If there is a GOP victory in 2024, the game could change.
The issue is the difference between gypsum, the harmless chemical found in wallboard in your house, with phosphopgysum, a byproduct of fertilizer manufacturing that contains a number of toxic and radioactive elements.
The issue is whether the use of the material in road building, manufacturing, home building products or agriculture nutrition will put public health at risk.
However, the existing statute doesn’t offer a lot of comfort.
It already allows coal ash and other problematic materials to be used.
It also based the presumption on declining landfill space, even though the material doesn’t go to landifills in the first place and there is no shortage in landfill space in Polk County after the County Commission voted a few years ago to allow the current landfill to be expanded a few hundred feet higher.