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Mosaic wants to test ‘radioactive road’ with 337 tons of phosphogypsum, records show

Documents shed new light on the Tampa fertilizer giant’s plan to test its phosphate byproduct in road construction.

Tampa fertilizer giant Mosaic is seeking federal approval to use an estimated 337 tons of phosphogypsum, a mildly radioactive byproduct from the company’s phosphate manufacturing process, as a test ingredient in road construction.

Phosphogypsum is currently stored in about two dozen “stacks” across Florida, including one at Mosaic’s New Wales plant in Mulberry. Now, the Fortune 500 company wants to remove the byproduct from its gypstack and mix it into a 1,200-foot road at the plant, according to a petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency obtained by the Tampa Bay Times.

Documents outlining the plan offer a first glimpse into the projected amount of phosphogypsum to be used for the study. The company’s truck drivers would haul the tons of material to the test road, roughly a half-mile from where it’s currently kept.

The phosphogypsum would be stored in a “staging area” until it’s ready to be blended with three ingredients for testing in roads: limerock, concrete and sand. Construction workers, equipped with their own personal gamma radiation detectors, would spend about a month building the test road, records show.

Mosaic described its proposed project to federal regulators as the “intermediate step between laboratory testing and full-scale implementation” of phosphogypsum in roads. For some concerned environmental groups, that’s proof the company has big plans to start building roads across the state — and maybe the nation — using the mildly radioactive byproduct. All while a new cash stream rolls in.

“The Mosaic Company has made it very clear that this is the first project in a larger campaign to use this waste in road construction,” Ragan Whitlock, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, wrote in a statement to the Times.

“While Florida’s Bone Valley is the front line for this waste, there are many stacks across the nation,” Whitlock said. “Mosaic’s campaign could potentially set the stage for fertilizer manufacturers from Idaho to Texas to pursue the same.”