Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, May 1, 2023


Ragan Whitlock, Center for Biological Diversity, (727) 426-3653,
Rachael Curran, People for Protecting Peace River, (727) 537-0802,

Gov. DeSantis Urged to Veto Radioactive Roads Bill

Would Permit Radioactive Phosphogypsum to Be Built Into Florida Roads

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— More than 20 conservation organizations across the Southeast urged Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis today to veto House Bill 1191, which would allow the use of radioactive fertilizer waste in road construction across the state.

The bill passed by legislators today permitting use of toxic phosphogypsum in “demonstration” road projects in Florida is the first step in a phosphate industry push to eventually use the waste in roads nationwide.

The Environmental Protection Agency prohibits using the toxic phosphate waste in roadway construction because it poses an unacceptable risk to road construction workers, public health and the environment.

“The only way Gov. DeSantis can assure Floridians he’s serious about protecting them from this radioactive waste is to veto this reckless bill,” said Ragan Whitlock, a Florida-based attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This dangerous plan to pave Florida’s roads with toxic phosphate mining waste is an egregious handout to an industry that has a lengthy history of damaging the environment and putting public health at risk.”

The bill would require the Florida Department of Transportation to complete a study on the feasibility of using phosphogypsum as a material for road construction, with an unreasonably short completion date of April 1, 2024.

The EPA has already concluded that phosphogypsum in roads is unsafe, and the fast-tracked study required by the bill fails to allow enough time to complete a thorough scientific review of the plan’s health and safety risks.

“No environmentally conscious or ‘green’ governor worth his salt would ever sign a bill into law approving roadbuilding with radioactive materials,” said Rachael Curran, an attorney with People for Protecting Peace River. “Even the fast-tracked ‘study’ contemplated by this industry sponsored bill would create harm because that study involves a full-scale road project that would have very real, very detrimental impacts to the environment and health of Floridians, especially road-construction crews.”

The agency currently requires that phosphogypsum be stored in piles called “gypstacks” that are hundreds of acres wide and hundreds of feet tall.

More than 1 billion tons of the radioactive waste are already stored in 25 stacks in Florida. The industry has a demonstrated history of inadequate management when it comes to phosphogypsum waste. The stacks are prone to spills and sinkholes — like the breach at Piney Point and sinkholes at New Wales — that threaten Tampa Bay and the Floridan Aquifer.

In 2020 the Trump-era EPA approved the use of phosphogypsum in roads. Following a lawsuit and petition by the Center and other conservation, public health and union groups, in 2021 the agency withdrew that approval.

Putting radioactive phosphogypsum in roads would let the fertilizer industry off the hook for safely disposing of the millions of tons of dangerous waste it creates each year while generating another cash stream for industry giants like The Mosaic Company, which reported a net income of $3.6 billion in 2022 alone.

Because the industry is running out of places to put this toxic waste, allowing its use in roads would clear the way for the industry to generate even more of it.

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.

People for Protecting Peace River is a grassroots nonprofit organization based in Bone Valley, Florida dedicated to protecting the wildlife, ecosystems, and people of Florida’s heartland and beyond from the harms of phosphate fertilizer production.

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