Behavior of natural radionuclides in surficial sediments from an estuary impacted by acid mine discharge and industrial effluents in Southwest Spain


The environmental degradation resulting from the acid mine drainage (AMD) and discharge from effluents of phosphogypsum (PG) piles in the watershed of Tinto and Odiel Rivers estuary over long periods of time has resulted in significant impact on the ecosystem of this estuary, resulting that the sediments are highly polluted by heavy metals and radionuclides from the discharge AMD and leachates from the PG. During resuspension of benthic sediments some of the radionuclides are desorbed making them bioavailable. In the present study, we investigate the spatial distribution of radionuclides U, Th and Ra and assess the factors and processes that caused the spatial distribution of these nuclides in this estuarine system. This study has global significance for other polluted environmental systems that are impacted by AMD and PG.


► Tinto–Odiel rivers estuary affected by AMD and leaching from phosphogypsum. ► Study about distribution processes that govern Ra, U and Th-isotopes in sediments. ► The acidity gradients of mixed waters (pH) regulate the U and Th distribution. ► Significant pollution by U has been found for pH = 3.5–4.5.