Milan Radisics

TOXIC BEAUTY
a chapter from @water.shapes.earth project

RADIOACTIVE WASTE IN ESTUARY OF RIO TINTO
Have you ever heard about phosphogypsum? No worries, I didn’t even know as well, but after research in local newspapers and in Annual Reports of local fertilizer company, I found a few shocking facts which I want to share.

Located in the middle of the salty marshes, near Huelva, Spain, this dam, used for storing industrial waste, contains 120 million tonnes of phosphogypsum, a by-product in the manufacture of phosphate-based fertilizers. It is considered the largest landfill of its kind in Europe. Phosphogypsum is a radioactive material due to the presence of naturally occurring uranium and thorium. It also contains rare earth elements, like yttrium and scandium.
Locals worried about the stability of the dams, since, in the event of a collapse, the Spanish industrial town and an estuary of Rio Tinto River would be swamped with toxic residue.
Service road crossing abandoned pond used for the disposal and stacking of phosphogypsum with shallow, but highly toxic radioactive green water in Huelva, Southern Spain.​​​​​​​ Circular holes are funnel-like decant points, where water collects in pools during the evaporation process. 
Visible width: ​​​​​​​200 m


waste material from fertilizer industry is pumped on to the upper surface of a massive waste impoundment in a water slurry. The impoundments are essentially very large shallow bowls, engineered to de-water the slurry through evaporation
Phosphogypsum refers to the calcium sulfate. It is mainly composed of gypsum, although gypsum is a widely used material in the construction industry, phosphogypsum is usually not used, but is stored indefinitely because of its weak radioactivity.

The estuary of Tinto River in south-west Spain is a highly polluted site as a consequence of long-term mining and industrial activities. The most shocking example of pollution is phosphogypsum stack located on the right side of sandy river bank, north of Huelva city. There’s a wide white wall sitting on top of the marshes.

The wall is the exterior of an industrial waste tailing dam, containing 120 million tons of phosphogypsum, a by-product of the manufacture of phosphate-based fertilizers. Between 1968 to 2010, different companies used the marshes to dump phosphogypsum. Officially, the permissible height is 2.5 meters, but, at some points, the dam is 35 meters high. It is considered the largest landfill of its kind in Europe. 


Bulldozer work on maintaining on the one of the several gypsum-ponds
After years of protests and negotiations, the company left in 2010, after 43 years of phosphogypsum production. Now phosphoric acid is imported from Morocco to avoid creating more radioactive waste, although the half-filled pond still remains.
Chrystalyzed textures of gypsum in alien-green water and funnel-like decant points where water collects in pools.
However, along with the gypsum, the dams are loaded with acidic waters and heavy metals. And they’re leaking.
Rafael Perez-Lopez, a Geo-chemist working for Huelva University, paints the horrific picture in DW.com interview:  “The dams leak around 7.8 tons of arsenic and 1.8 tons of cadmium per year to the river, among other heavy metals like Uranium.”

Locals worried about the stability of the dams, since, in the event of a collapse, the Spanish industrial town and an estuary of Rio Tinto River would be swamped with toxic residue. The good news is that after years of protests and negotiations, the company left in 2010, after 43 years of phosphogypsum production.

But bad news is that now phosphoric acid is imported from Morocco where the laws allow companies to deposit waste into the sea. Although the half-filled pond still remains.
Leaking acidic waters and heavy metals reveal the former tidal streams of Rio Tinto in industrial area oh Huelva.
Changes over the season
Funnel-like decant points where water collects in pools.
This system of dams, used for storing industrial waste, contains 120 million tonnes of phosphogypsum. 
Half-filled pond still remains for the next genarations. 
Mr. Milan or Milan Radisics - The Hungarian photographer, who has also work for National Geographic, visited the Spanish sites on three occasions. In the course of one road trip, on his own El-Camino, he traveled 10,000 km (approx. 6,200 miles) in scarcely more than two weeks. At location, he could remain for days until the very best light conditions revealed the true character of the given place.


The TOXIC BEAUTY small series is one part of the Water.Shapes.Earth project. It is a chapter which uses aesthetic means to present and to document hidden cost of economical groving.


TOXIC BEAUTY
RADIOACTIVE WASTE IN ESTUARY OF RIO TINTO





© 2019 Milan Radisics
milan@radex.hu
Alien Planet
22
150
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Alien Planet

Aerial photo series about phosphogypsum stacking ponds in Spain containig radioctive alien-like green water.
22
150
3
Published:

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