The decision to end an environmental cleanup project in Florida has become a controversial topic as of late. Recently the Environmental Protection Agency decided to end its battle with politicians and industrial officials in Florida over phosphate-mining sites in between Orlando and Tampa.
While the EPA argued that this 10-square-mile site still contains harmful radiation, the local government and industrial officials suggested that the area didn’t warrant further testing or a cleanup. The latter of the two finally won out after decades of debate, meaning that the phosphate mining sites have been deemed passable by EPA standards. Not only has this controversial decision created uproar amongst local populations, it also raises questions about future radiation cleanup efforts in the United States.
Decision to Stop the Cleanup
In a recent statement, the Florida health and environmental departments communicated that they have no plans to further examine the sites in question. This comes in direct opposition to federal recommendations that suggested the need for an aerial radiation survey, as cited by Nextgov.
While the EPA’s decision was supposedly based on the opinion that the area was no longer problematic, previous reports suggest otherwise. Released documentation from previous years suggests that the EPA still considers the area a health risk and that their decision to halt the cleanup was reached due to opposition from state opposition.
With this decision the EPA is overlooking an area regarded as one of the most dangerous that it could possibly clean up, as discussed by Nextgov. Considering the cancer-causing nature of the radiation present in the area and the size of the nearby population makes this decision a huge health risk.
Decades ago EPA scientists discovered that phosphate mining created a number of dangerous byproducts in the environment surrounding Lakeland. These tests revealed high levels of radium in the soil surrounding the mining sites, a dangerous chemical that is known to cause a variety of cancers. Also, the gases released by decaying radium can seep into the air and lead to lung cancer.
Despite these initial tests, more recent plans for retesting and addressing the issue were halted due to opposition from phosphate mining industry officials and local politicians. Considering that phosphate mining is one of the biggest industries in Florida, this decision demonstrates a willingness to risk public safety in order to preserve economic prosperity.
Neglecting to conduct even the most preliminary radiation tests reflects a complete disregard for the potential danger of the situation. Just as an area with potentially dangerous gas warrants testing with MultiRAELite equipment, these phosphate-mining sites should be retested for radiation levels.
Citing “historic” results from the area as evidence of its safety is a negligent act and shows a willingness to cut corners on the part of Florida’s officials.The halt of this cleanup could pose a significant health risk for the local populations in Florida as well as harm wildlife and the surrounding environment. In this case, pressure to preserve Florida’s profitable mining industry was enough to warrant health risks that would otherwise raise red flags.
The EPA’s decision to look the other way on this issue raises questions about further radiation cleanup efforts in the United States. If the EPA is willing to fold in the face of opposition in this situation, there’s nothing to say other hazardous cleanup sites won’t be ignored in the future. This is particularly true when it comes to hazardous sites that are linked to industry or government interests.
With health and environment concerns in mind, let’s hope that this isn’t the beginning of a trend toward lax nationwide radiation protocol.