Roadways in Florida could soon be constructed from radioactive waste materials if a bill put on the desk of Governor Ron DeSantis by the state legislature gets the Republican leader’s final approval.
According to a report from NPR, the proposed HB 1191 would see the state of Florida and its Department of Transportation be compelled to study the use of phosphogypsum in road construction, specifically as a paving material aggregate. Phosphogypsum is commonly found as a byproduct of the fertilizer industry, often the result of mixing phosphate rock in sulfuric acid to make the phosphoric acid found in most fertilizer. It’s a highly inefficient process however, with five tons of phosphogypsum waste produced for every ton of the desirable phosphoric acid. Phosphogypsum is traditionally stored in large piles similar to garbage dumps, though these sites have been linked to other issues such as sinkholes. The material is also known to the EPA to contain appreciable amounts of uranium and other radioactive elements associated with its decay process. These include health hazards such as radium-226, polonium, and radon gas. The EPA is tasked with regulating phosphogypsum due to the health risks it poses.
The EPA has not allowed states to use phosphogypsum in road construction for three decades at this point, except for a brief lift on the ban under the Trump administration that has since been reversed. The state of Florida technically requires approval from the EPA before it could start road construction with phosphogypsum, according to the NPR report.
The bill lists an April 1, 2024 deadline for the state’s DOT to complete its investigation before making a recombination. The bill passed the state legislature by a healthy margin, so it won’t be much of a surprise if DeSantis ultimately busts out his pen. That said, the Governor doesn't actually need to sign anything for the bill to be enacted. That's all to say that unskilled drivers might be the least of your worries during any future Florida road trips.
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