US Florida's latest regulatory nightmare exposes a glaring national failure
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In his confirmation hearing, Rohit Chopra, President Biden’s nominee to head up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), strongly signaled that things would change under his watch . After a perceived abdication of responsibility by the Bureau during the Trump administration, he expects the agency to become more aggressive when he takes control. However, presumptive Director Chopra should pay careful attention not to throw one thing out with the bathwater: the Bureau's increased openness to innovation.
As environmental regulators and politicians nervously saluted efforts to prevent the catastrophic release of millions of gallons of wastewater from the agingphosphogypsum wastewater storage pond near Tampa, Fla., this week, there was scarce little talk of how we got here.
Or of how we'll prevent similar disasters moving forward.
Much like the country's toxic coal ash dumps and pollution-spewing oil and gas wells, the dozens of phosphogypsum stacks across Florida and beyond highlight regulatory failures and chronic injustices that pose catastrophic environmental harms and place disproportionate health and safety risks on Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and low-wealth communities.
Attention, lawmakers — regulation is more popular than you think
The Biden-Harris administration should not be timid in pursuing its agenda — no matter how loud the bad faith protests from regulatory critics might be — because it has the public on its side. Sidney Shapiro is the Frank U. Fletcher chair in law, Wake Forest University and the vice president of the Center for Progressive Reform.
And in the case of many of Florida's, those glaring risks have steadily mounted as state and federal officials ignored signs of troubling failures at outdated facilities plagued by aging infrastructure and lax oversight.
Phosphogypsum waste is created during the process of making phosphoric acid, which is widely used in fertilizers. The toxic, radioactive waste is stored in more thancalled "phosphogypsum stacks" in communities in Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
The gypstacks can contain significant amounts of sulfur, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, copper, fluoride, lead and zinc. They also contain radium-226 which has a 1,600-yeardecay half-life.
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But with mines and processing facilities that manufacture nearly two-thirds of the phosphate fertilizer produced in the U.S., Florida has always stood at the very epicenter of the escalating risks posed by the industry.
And the potentially catastrophic leaks at Piney Point are only the latest in a series of examples of problems at Florida phosphogypsum stacks.
In 2016 a sinkhole in the New Wales gypstack in Florida releasedof process wastewater into the Floridan aquifer that provides drinking water for 10 million people.
In 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reached a $2 billion settlement with Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC for comminglingof hazardous waste with other waste products in Florida and Louisiana.
In 2009 a sinkhole in the PCS gypstack in White Springs, Florida releasedof process wastewater.
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The CO2 tax is a regressive burden on the energy that keeps Americans comfortable and healthy.First, this support for the CO2 tax is based on the questionable notion that American society requires some regulatory motivation to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. It clearly doesn't.
In 2004 the Riverview gypstack in Florida discharged 65 million gallons of process wastewater into Hillsborough Bay, Fla.
And there have been numerous problems documented at phosphogypsum stacks in other states.
In 2020 the EPA reached awith J.R. Simplot Company for commingling hazardous waste at a gypstack with other waste in Wyoming.
In Louisiana's "Cancer Alley," the Uncle Sam gypstack has beensince 2019 causing significant concern of catastrophic collapse.
In 2017 the EPA designated the Mississippi phosphate gypstack awhere the groundwater is now contaminated with arsenic, cadmium, lead, selenium and thallium and the soils are contaminated with chromium, nickel and radium.
Many of these gypstacks are in BIPOC and/or low-wealth communities.
For example, the shifting Uncle Sam gypstack is in an area of Louisiana with thefrom air pollution. Gypstacks emit radon, the second leading cause of lung cancer.
The gypstacks in Riverview Florida were built just, a historically Black neighborhood that has become an industrial sacrifice zone anchored by the looming gypstacks.
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A sex offender murdered his ex-wife, told their 5-year-old daughter it was just a nightmare, and then died by suicide, authorities said. The Bergen County Prosecutor's Office announced the deaths of suspect James T. Cox, 43, and victim Massiel S. Deoleo, 34, on Sunday. The post Sex Offender Murdered Ex-Wife, Told Their 5-Year-Old Daughter It Was Just a Nightmare Before Taking Own Life: Authorities first appeared on Law & Crime.Carlstadt police said they got a call on Saturday morning from a relative of Deoleo. The caller reported her missing, and was worried for her well-being. They said the last person Massiel was with was Cox, who lived at 601 6th Street.
And in October 2020, without public notice or comment, thethe use of radioactive phosphogypsum in road construction its long-standing scientific determination it would present an unacceptable risk to public health. The EPA's approval of the use of phosphogypsum in roads is in litigation.
As a result, in February conservation organizationsto restrict use of phosphogypsum and process wastewater due to the unreasonable risk they pose of injury to human health and the environment. The EPA has until May 9 to respond.
The ongoing environmental nightmare exposed by Florida's poorly regulated Piney Point gypstack is a sobering reminder of the challenge previous administrations have left at the feet of the Biden administration.
Without question the challenge of updating and improving oversight of the nation's aging toxic storage sites is enormous.
We have no choice but to aggressively work to reverse the historically poor regulation of dangerous sites that continue to pose unchecked threats to the environment and the communities that have been saddled with waking up every day in the dark shadow of those threats.
Jaclyn Lopez is the Florida director for the Center for Biological Diversity.
How to Watch 'Them': Lena Waithe and Little Marvin's New Horror Anthology Streams April 9 .
The new horror anthology explores terror in America, and premieres on Amazon Prime on April 9.Welcome to Little Marvin's new nightmare: Them. Emmy-winning writer Lena Waithe, known for Master of None, Queen & Slim, The Chi and more, executive produced the new, stylized terror anthology series, with Marvin serving as creator and showrunner. Them is now streaming on Amazon Prime.