This is a new low… even for Florida.
Recycling radioactive waste is one thing, but this proposal from Florida lawmakers is, in classic Floridian fashion, taking things way too far.
As CBS News reports, the Florida Senate has passed a bill that would allow new roads to be paved with a mining waste that is, per the Environmental Protection Agency, known to be “radioactive.”
The radioactive byproduct, known as phosphogypsum, is leftover from the mining of phosphate rock that’s most commonly used to produce fertilizer. Phosphogypsum is known to contain small amounts of uranium and radium, which ultimately decays to radon — a “potentially cancer-causing, radioactive gas,” an EPA spokesperson told CBS.
The timing couldn’t be worse for chaotic presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, who now faces the choice to sign the bill — a literally radioactive decision that could haunt him as the presidential race heats up.
The new law is meant to reuse “recyclable materials” that, according to the bill, “contribute to problems of declining space in landfills.”
Phosphogypsum, however, does not end up in landfills because, as the EPA spokesperson told CBS, “Clean Air Act regulations require that phosphogypsum be managed in engineered stacks to limit public exposure from emissions of radon and other radionuclides in the material.”
Indeed, the EPA has banned the use of phosphogypsum for construction projects for decades, though the spokesperson said that there are carve-outs for restricted use in agricultural settings, indoor research, and other government-approved use cases if the agency finds that it “is at least as protective of human health as placement in a stack.”
Proponents of a previous bill already failed to justify making use of the material less than two years ago.
While it’s unclear what direction the EPA will swing this time if DeSantis signs the bill, experts have said it’s a horrendous idea that could put the public at risk.
According to Ragan Whitlock, a staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity that spoke to CBS, the EPA “actually found numerous risks from the use of phosphogypsum in road construction that would expose the public, particularly road construction workers, to an unacceptably dangerous cancer risk.”
Then again, this is Florida after all, so we should probably hedge our expectations.
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