Fertilizers Hazardous Waste
One of the most serious problems associated with the phosphate industry is the phosphogypsum waste produced at phosphoric acid plants. Current federal, state, and local regulations do not prevent phosphogypsum waste from entering the environment through leaks, spills, breaches, and sinkholes. These stacks present an unreasonable risk to public health and the environment.
The phosphate industry has dumped in excess of a billion tons of radioactive waste in Florida and produces more than 46 million tons of phosphogypsum waste annually, expanding its toxic legacy in vulnerable communities.
Phosphogypsum is dumped at various locations throughout Florida in hazardous waste phosphogypsum (gyp) piles, these gyp piles can pollute our groundwater, leach into our rivers and bays, kill and contaminate our marine life, and pollute our air.
Gyp pile wastewater includes acids, radionuclides, arsenic, and other cancer-causing constituents. Given the hydrogeology of Florida, it is obvious that current phosphogypsum waste disposal and phosphoric acid production methods should not be permitted here. The extent of the threat to public health in Florida from gyp piles is large.
Phosphate companies have had over 70 years to figure out a way to dispose of their radioactive waste in an acceptable manner, and still have yet to produce a viable alternative.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has required the waste be dumped in piles since 1992 because of its concern that the radium-bearing waste, if spread throughout the country, would present a public health threat that would continue for generations, given radium's 1,630-year radioactive decay half-life.
Scientists agree there is no harmless level of radiation. There is evidence that even low-level radon exposure may have a greater relative risk than higher levels of radon exposure.
One of the main objectives of ManaSota-88 is to limit the exposure of the public to radon from phosphogypsum. Unfortunately, the very lives of Floridians, and that of the nation, continue to be placed at risk by self-serving politicians, consultants, and the fertilizer industry.
The EPA is mandated to protect the health of the environment and the people of this nation and should make every possible effort to minimize radiation exposure to the public. That’s why ManaSota-88 along with other environmental and public health groups, filed a legal petition to EPA seeking increased federal oversight of phosphogypsum and process wastewater.
More stringent environmental regulation is needed to control the adverse impacts of phosphogypsum.
If the answer to solving the problems associated with gyp piles means no more gyp piles are located in this country, this can only be viewed as an economic, environmental, and public health benefit. Had adequate environmental and health rules been developed concerning phosphogypsum waste disposal, the industry would have found it to their benefit to develop a new method of producing phosphoric acid without dumping their toxic waste throughout Florida and the nation.
Glenn Compton is the Chairman of ManaSota 88, a non-profit organization that has spent over 30 years fighting to protect the environment of Manatee and Sarasota counties.
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Reader CommentsPatricia Benson
MAR 29, 2021 • PLease send this article to Washington, D.C. And let our new environmental people see what the Republicans are doing to our environment in Florida.