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Florida, Phosphate, and Phosphogypsum

A gypstack starts with drag lines, pushing the original natural surface soils called “overburden” into large piles or mounds. Overburden is what the lay person would call springs, aquifers, pastures, lakes, rivers, streams, watersheds, unique ecosystems, and the like. The overburden is then used to start the sides of the “gypstack” by making an earthen dam that holds the phosphate matrix slurry as it comes from the production field. Phosphogypsum is “stacked” in these radioactive mounds of industrial waste materials, year after year with no end in sight.

If one drives down Highway 41 in or around Riverview, FL on a regular basis over time, one cannot miss the huge mound of grayish-white colored material piling up year after year by the phosphate processing plant in Riverview, located on the back of Tampa Bay near the mouth of the Alafia River. One will notice immediately, the massive size and height of the mound, even though it is so far away. I would drive by this mound every month or so, for years as a youth in central Florida. Then, once in a while, I would notice the “mound” looks bigger than it used to, I could not tell if it was growing or it was my imagination. Unfortunately, it was bigger, even though it was difficult to see the mound growing because the mound is just that massive.

Now I know this huge mound is toxic waste, generated by the phosphate processing plant in Riverview, FL. You may ask, why would Florida’s elected officials “permit” the phosphate industry to store toxic, radioactive material in an area so close to a large human population in an extremely eco-sensitive area, directly on the shoreline of Tampa Bay, in Florida? Well, the answer turns out ultimately, to be money.

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