Biden Administration Undoes Trump Gypsum Road Use Decision

The Joseph Biden administration’s Environmental Protection Agency has withdrawn a proposal announced in October to the allow the use of phosphogypsum for road projects within 200 miles of the waste stacks.

Most of the waste stacks in Florida are in Polk County, the location of the major fertilizer manufacturing plants.

Phosphogypsum is one of the waste products from fertilizer manufacturing. It is slightly radioactive and contains unnatural concentrations of heavy metals and other contaminants that can potentially affect public health. The earlier proposed rule reflected that concern and included a condition that any roads made with this material could not be abandoned and the land converted to another use. The main concern was that if a home were constructed atop a road containing this material, residents could face greater exposure to radon gas.

The Trump Administration’s decision was in response to a long-time request by the fertilizer industry, which supplied research to support its requests, to allow other uses of this material as an alternative to the corporations’ responsibility for perpetual caretaking and monitoring of the stacks, even after they are no longer active.

This was more of a temporary political victory for the fertilizer industry than any else. It didn’t seem to produce any real effect on road construction practices in Florida. State and local road engineers said after the announcement that they didn’t plan to use the material, which some engineers consider inferior to conventional materials used in building road bases.