A bill proposing the investigation of using phosphogypsum as a road-building material has cleared a final committee in the Florida House of Representatives. The controversial bill, sponsored by Dover Republican Rep. Lawrence McClure, seeks to explore the potential of reusing phosphogypsum and reducing the reliance on massive gypstacks for managing the substance.
Phosphogypsum is a byproduct of the phosphorus production process, generating approximately five tons of phosphogypsum for every ton of phosphorus produced. There are currently around 1 billion tons of phosphogypsum spread across 24 stacks in Florida, with an additional 30 million tons created annually.
The bill (HB 1191) primarily directs the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to assess the suitability of using phosphogypsum in road base. The assessment would consider existing and ongoing studies related to the material’s potential use. The bill’s language clarifies that it will not impact the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permitting of gypstack systems under existing Florida law.
Under the proposal, phosphogypsum could be utilized in road construction after EPA approval. Notably, the EPA had initially approved the use of phosphogypsum in road construction during the Trump administration. However, the EPA later withdrew that approval, citing incomplete information in the request.
Environmental and worker advocacy groups have expressed concerns about potential health risks associated with using phosphogypsum due to the presence of radium-226, radon, and polonium, which are naturally occurring radioactive elements. Despite such concerns, proponents of the bill argue that conducting a comprehensive study of the material’s potential usage in road construction is essential.
Rep. McClure emphasized the importance of considering health and safety aspects, especially for workers and residents who may come into contact with the material. He also noted that examining how vehicles interact with roadways containing phosphogypsum would be a critical component of the study.
The bill was approved by the House Infrastructure Strategies Committee with a vote of 14-5. If passed by the full House and Senate, the legislation would prompt the Florida Department of Transportation to explore the feasibility of using phosphogypsum in road construction, potentially influencing future environmental and infrastructure policies in the state.
Original Article By Wes Wolfe- Florida Politics