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Environmental impact and management of phosphogypsum

Tayibi, Hanan, Choura, Mohamed, López, Félix A., Alguacil, Francisco J., López-Delgado, Aurora
Journal of environmental management 2009 v.90 no.8 pp. 2377-2386
phosphogypsum, pollution control, environmental impact, waste management, water pollution, soil pollution, air pollution
The production of phosphoric acid from natural phosphate rock by the wet process gives rise to an industrial by-product called phosphogypsum (PG). About 5 tons of PG are generated per ton of phosphoric acid production, and worldwide PG generation is estimated to be around 100-280 Mt per year. This by-product is mostly disposed of without any treatment, usually by dumping in large stockpiles. These are generally located in coastal areas close to phosphoric acid plants, where they occupy large land areas and cause serious environmental damage. PG is mainly composed of gypsum but also contains a high level of impurities such as phosphates, fluorides and sulphates, naturally occurring radionuclides, heavy metals, and other trace elements. All of this adds up to a negative environmental impact and many restrictions on PG applications. Up to 15% of world PG production is used to make building materials, as a soil amendment and as a set controller in the manufacture of Portland cement; uses that have been banned in most countries. The USEPA has classified PG as a "Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material" (TENORM). This work reviews the different environmental impacts associated with PG storage and disposal. The methods described in the literature to minimise the negative effects of this waste are classified by treatment type, i.e. physical, chemical, thermal, etc., and different suggested applications for PG are detailed.