Florida moves forward on radioactive road paving plan as Gov. DeSantis signs new law - NPR

Florida is another step closer to paving its roads with phosphogypsum — a radioactive waste material from the fertilizer industry — after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a controversial bill into law Thursday.

Conservation groups had urged DeSantis to veto the bill, saying phosphogypsum would hurt water quality and put road construction crews at a higher risk of cancer.

The Environmental Protection Agency also has a say: The agency regulates phosphogypsum, and any plan to use it in roads would require a review.

Florida’s transportation agency now has less than a year to complete a study [on the use of phosphogypsum in paving roads] and make a recommendation; the bill sets a deadline of April 1, 2024.

[Elise Bennett, Florida and Caribbean director at the Center for Biological Diversity, has] criticized the plan, saying that under the new law, radioactive waste would be dumped in roadways “under the guise of a so-called feasibility study that won’t address serious health and safety concerns.”

DeSantis signed the bill into law) several days after formally receiving it. The Republican-dominated Florida Legislature had approved the measure by a wide margin.

The EPA says “phosphogypsum remains prohibited from use in road construction,” as it has been almost continuously for more than 30 years.

Under former President Donald Trump, the EPA briefly rescinded that policy starting in October 2020. But it reinstated the rule in June 2021.

The agency said Florida would have to apply for approval of its plan, citing [the code of federal regulations. As with any other proposed project, the EPA would then open a public comment period, release its own technical analysis and seek input about the proposal.

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Locations: Florida 

Organizations: Environmental Protection Agency 

People: Ron DeSantis Elise Bennett 

Tags: Florida House Bill 1191 Public Health 

Type: Headlines