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Chemical Regulation

US EPA declines to order phosphogypsum toxicity tests

by Britt E. Erickson
May 15, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 18


Road construction signs and cones blocking a road being repaired.
Credit: Shutterstock
The US Environmental Protection Agency is considering whether to regulate phosphogypsum waste in road construction as a significant new use.

The US Environmental Protection Agency denied a request from environmental groups to order testing to evaluate the human health and environmental risks of waste phosphogypsum and water from phosphoric acid production. The petitioners claim that the waste products are radioactive and toxic. Phosphoric acid is made from mined phosphate, most of which in the US is found in mineral deposits in Florida. Phosphogypsum is created during the production of phosphate fertilizers from phosphoric acid. Reports of a leaking holding pond at a former phosphate plant in Florida in April elevated concerns about the ecological risks of such waste. In a May 6 response to the testing request, the EPA says that “the petitioners have not provided the facts necessary for the Agency to determine for phosphogypsum and process wastewater that existing information and experience are insufficient and testing with respect to such effects is necessary.” The EPA plans to issue a separate notice to address other parts of the petition, including a request to consider designating phosphogypsum and process wastewater a high priority for risk evaluation and to determine whether to regulate phosphogypsum in road construction as a significant new use.


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