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Get the latest coverage of the 2023 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

A plan to use radioactive phosphate material to build roads heads to DeSantis

Mosaic5_DM_061521.jpg A yellow, crane-like construction vehicle pushes around dirt, which is piled up in ridges around it.
Daylina Miller
WUSF Public Madia
A construction vehicle performs daily earth work on top of Mosaic's Bartow gypstack.

Opponents said the byproduct could harm people working on roads and affect water in aquifers.

The Florida Senate on Monday gave final approval to a bill that could be a step toward using phosphogypsum, a byproduct of the phosphate industry, in building roads.

Senators voted 34-4 to approve the bill (HB 1191), which passed the House last week. It is now ready to go to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The issue has drawn attention, at least in part, because phosphogypsum includes radioactive elements. It is stored in huge stacks.

READ MORE: A deep well injection could herald the end of spills from the Piney Point phosphate plant

The bill would allow the Department of Transportation to move forward with demonstration projects that include phosphogypsum in aggregate materials in road construction.

The department would conduct a study on the issue.

“Upon a determination of suitability by the department, phosphogypsum from phosphate production may be used as a construction aggregate material in accordance with the conditions of the United States Environmental Protection Agency approval for the use,” the bill says.

READ MORE: Phosphates and Florida

Opponents raised questions about potential hazards from using phosphogypsum, including whether it could harm people working on roads and whether it could affect water in aquifers.

Senate sponsor Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, said the study would look at such issues.

The dissenting votes were cast by Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boca Raton, Sen. Rosalind Osgood, D-Fort Lauderdale, Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Windermere, and Sen. Victor Torres, D-Orlando.