Gypsum Road Study? What Gypsum Road Study?

A bid by the Mosaic fertilizer corporation during last year’s session of the Florida Legislature to direct the Florida Department of Transportation to study the feasibility of using a waste product called phosphogypsum for road—building projects easily passed and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill.

The study was due to be completed by April 1 of this year, but so far there is no word on the study’s whereabouts.

The last we heard from an inquiry to a local legislator was that he is still waiting to hear from the folks at FDOT.

That’s not surprising.

This whole endeavor was more a political ploy than a practical engineering enterprise.

For one thing, it is not really a mystery whether the material, which is slightly radioactive and contains trace amounts of a number of toxic metals, was used to build a road.

It was used to build one on the outskirts of Fort Meade several years ago in a rural residential area next to an old phosphate pit.

Despite some of the talk about “radioactive roads” that might glow in the dark, University of Miami researchers examined whether the material used to build that road caused any problems and reportedly found none.

What this was really all about is the continual tug of war between environmental regulators and regulated industries over what is allowed and what is prohibited.

As things stand now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not allow wholesale use of phosphogypsum for roadbuilding, farming or any other use for which it is reportedly allowed to be used in other parts of the world.

The fertilizer industry would like to change the EPA ban  so that they could be relieved of the very expensive obligation of monitoring these stacks for the rest of time.

The problem is that over the decades these waste stacks have grown to the size of small mountains across the region’s landscape to the point that even if someone approved its use, the amount that would be economical to use—at some point transportation costs to job sites makes it uneconomical—it would hardly make a noticeable dent in the size of these stacks.

That practical aspect was never addressed in the superficial staff analyses that accompanied the debate on the bill.

The bottom line is that it really does not matter whether FDOT conducted the study or what it concluded.

Those stacks are not going anywhere.

Tom Palmer
Winter Haven

Check out my blog at Conservation News – Sierra Club – Ancient Islands Group

Posted in Group Conservation Issues.