For Immediate Release, May 27, 2021

Contact:

Jaclyn Lopez, (727) 490-9190, jlopez@biologicaldiversity.org

Florida Billboard Launched to Raise Awareness of Radioactive Toxic Waste

10X36-Foot Billboard Defines Phosphogypsum

ARCADIA, Fla.— A new billboard message highlighting the risks phosphate mining and phosphogypsum pose to communities, water and the environment has been installed along State Route 70 in DeSoto County. The 36-foot-wide billboard directs motorists to www.RadioactiveFlorida.org.

The billboard, commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity, is located near the proposed site of a 14,000-acre phosphate mine. It aims to raise awareness about the dangers of phosphogypsum, the radioactive waste from phosphate mining and fertilizer production.

“The Piney Point disaster was a wake-up call for Florida. We have an out-of-control problem with phosphate mining and phosphogypsum,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center. “With the sprawling mine proposed in DeSoto County and the planned 200-plus-acre expansion of the sinkhole-prone New Wales phosphogypsum storage stack, it’s past time for regulators to step up and protect Floridians from this poorly regulated industry.”

What: New billboard message about the risks of radioactive phosphogypsum; the billboard invites people to learn more about the harms of fertilizer production at www.RadioactiveFlorida.org.

Where: S.R. 70, 1.8 miles east of S.R. 72, Arcadia, Florida.

Background

Phosphogypsum is the radioactive waste from processing phosphate ore into phosphoric acid, which is predominantly used in fertilizer. Radium-226, found in phosphogypsum, has a 1,600-year radioactive decay half-life. In addition to high concentrations of radioactive materials, phosphogypsum and process wastewater can also contain carcinogens and heavy toxic metals like antimony, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, copper, fluoride, lead, mercury, nickel, silver, sulfur, thallium and zinc.

In 2018 DeSoto County commissioners denied a request from The Mosaic Company, the largest phosphate mining company in the United States, to dig an 14,000-acre phosphate mine. But shortly thereafter the county reversed course and gave Mosaic four years to re-present its case. The county has temporarily delayed mine-related meetings to better understand the causes and consequences of the recent Piney Point phosphogypsum stack failure in Manatee County.

For every ton of phosphoric acid produced, the fertilizer industry creates five tons of radioactive phosphogypsum waste, which is stored in mountainous stacks hundreds of acres wide and hundreds of feet tall. More than 1 billion tons of phosphogypsum have already been stored in 25 stacks scattered throughout Florida.

In 2016 Mosaic’s New Wales gypstack developed a sinkhole that released 215 million gallons of process wastewater into the Floridan aquifer. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has issued a draft permit to expand that gypstack by more than 200 acres.

Phosphogypsum billboard in Desoto County, Florida
Phosphogypsum billboard on State Route 70, DeSoto County, Florida/Kerry Bowers Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.