Don’t allow hazardous material in road construction: OSFR President Mike Roth Guest Editorial

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MosaicFhole1 In: Don’t allow hazardous material in road construction: OSFR President Mike Roth Guest Editorial | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
Sinkhole in the top of a gypstack which leaked toxic process water into the aquifer. FDEP tried to keep it quiet for nearly 3 weeks but were caught by a Tampa TV station. Photo by Jim Tatum

 

The anti-environment appointees under the Trump administration indeed attempted to launch some preposterous programs and using toxic phosphogypsum  for road building was one of them.  Gypstacks are much in the news today because of the return of the Piney Point problem.

Here is a link to the site https://phosphogypsumfreeamerica.org/ which Mike mentions below.  Please sign the petition to help arrive at a solution to this problem.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
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– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum


Don’t allow hazardous material in road construction

Michael Roth

Special to Gainesville Sun USA TODAY NETWORK
Sunday, April 4, 2021

Did you ever see a phosphogypsum stack, aka a ‘gypstack’? To a first timer, it’s a breathtaking sight — a 400-acre ‘mountain’ rising to the height of a 20-story building. To a resident of mid-central Florida, it’s the normal background vista.

If you climb up this 200-foot incline, you can see its contents — as much as an 80-acre acidic lake with pH levels as low as 1.5. And this lake is likely to be around for a while, since the radioactive radium that makes up the lake has a 1,630-year half-life.

Adding to this soup is a significant presence of sulfur, as well as lesser amounts of arsenic, barium, cadmium and lead. The fertilizer industry in Florida produces about 30 million tons of the stuff each year; the over 900 million tons that have been produced so far fill about 25 such ‘mountains’ in Florida, a state well known for heavy rains and sinkholes.

Exposure to phosphogypsum — which can leach from gypsum stacks into subsurface aquifers, can be absorbed by plants, consumed by livestock and wildlife and work its way through the food chain to humans — is known to cause cancer in 1 in ever 10,000 people that come into contact with it.

Apparently, there’s no reason for concern, because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection are sure it’s safe. In fact, Mosaic Industries, the owner of most of the gypstacks, claims to be ‘… one of the most highly regulated companies in the state of Florida.’

Still, in 1997, a 56-million-gallon spill turned the north prong of the Alafia river into a killing zone, damaging 377 acres of habitat and killing or injuring any wildlife that couldn’t evacuate quickly enough. In 2016, a sinkhole in one of the gypstacks sucked 215 million gallons directly into the Floridan Aquifer, which supplies water to virtually everyone in Florida north of Palm Beach. There are numerous stories of lesser spills and leaks in between those incidents, and they continue to occur.

According to Glenn Compton, the chairman of Manasota-88, ‘The DEP currently lacks adequate regulations needed to protect the public and the environment from hazards associated with gypsum stacks and ponds. Proper regulations requiring final disposition of gypsum wastes in an environmentally acceptable manner do not exist.’

Now, the EPA has come up with a solution. Reversing a ban that has been in place since 1992, and ignoring its own expert consultant, who found numerous scenarios that would expose the public, the EPA in October approved the use of phosphogypsum in road construction.

Characterized by Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director of the Center for Biological Diversity, as ‘a political favor to the fertilizer industry,’ this move clearly subjects road builders as well as the general public to unacceptable levels of radiation.

Accordingly, a coalition of conservation and labor groups has assembled a series of informative articles, videos and statistics at

PhosphogypsumFreeAmerica.org . At the core of the website is a public petition asking the EPA to reconsider its irresponsibly dangerous decision to allow the use of phosphogypsum in road construction.

The petition goes further to request more stringent oversight and regulation of the hazardous waste more closely aligned with the spirit of the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act, which were designed to control the generation, transportation, treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous waste with an eye toward public safety and protection.

We urge everyone to review the material at the website and through the petition remind the EPA that it is responsible for the protection of human health and the environment and not designed for the protection of the fertilizer industry.

Michael Roth is president of Our Santa Fe River Inc

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