Radioactive impact in sediments from an estuarine system affected by industrial wastes releases


A big fertilizer industrial complex and a vast extension of phosphogypsum piles (12 km2), sited in the estuary formed by the Odiel and Tinto river mouths (southwest of Spain), are producing an unambiguous radioactive impact in their surrounding aquatic environment through radionuclides from the U-series. The levels and distribution of radionuclides in sediments from this estuarine system have been determined. The analyses of radionuclide concentrations and activity ratios have provided us with an interesting information to evaluate the extension, degree and routes of the radioactive impact, as well as for the knowledge of the different pathways followed for the radioactive contamination to disturb this natural system. The obtained results indicate that the main pathway of radioactive contamination of the estuary is through the dissolution in its waters of the radionuclides released by the industrial activities and their later fixation on the particulate materials. Tidal activity also plays an important role in the transport and homogenization along the estuary of the radioactivity released from the fertilizer plants.