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Not a huge amount to worry about, this radioactive sinkhole in Florida

A sinkhole has opened up at a fertilizer plant in the US, causing about 980 million litres of radioactive water to leak into one of Florida’s main underground sources of drinking water.

The sinkhole, which is about 14 metres in diameter, collapsed beneath a pile of waste material called a “gypsum stack”.

Sitting on top of that stack was a storage pond containing phosphogypsum, which is a radioactive byproduct resulting from the production of phosphate.

Well, yes and no. The by product isn’t made radioactive by the process. You dig up the earth, take out the bit you want and what’s left over is radioactive. Because the original dirt is radioactive.

And it leaking into the ground water —- the radioactivity has been sitting there above the aquifer for a few million years now. The bits that are radioactive and water soluble have probably leached through anyway. And an aquifer also isn’t a big pool of water, it’s soused rock. Meaning that there’s rather a lot of filtration that goes on.

Can’t see it as being a major problem really. Except for the hysteria, obviously.

From memory the radioactivity is thorium and uranium. So, very akin to having a bit more granite around.

12 thoughts on “Not a huge amount to worry about, this radioactive sinkhole in Florida”

  1. That gypsum isn’t actually isn’t waste. It is a by-product that doesn’t have a use in the fertilizer industry. It is used construction materials. Any building, at least in the US, that uses drywall[1] contains some of this ‘waste’.

    Don’t get me started on cider blocks[2]. The fly ash used to make them is low level nuclear material. It is interesting watching ‘greens’ complaining about radiation while sitting comfortably in a modern building. For some reason not long after I started pointing this out on sites like ecowatch the comments section disappeared.

    Hopefully it isn’t needed here but I always point out that there is no serious risk from drywall or cider blocks. Bananas are a much bigger concern.



  2. I imagine they’re worried about the ²&sup2²Rn from uranium (via thorium, protactinium, uranium and thorium again and then radium). But by how much is the radioactivity enhanced in the phosphogypsum over its precursor phosphate? This sounds like the usual sort of tomfoolery when the dread word ‘radioactive’ is invoked.

  3. So Much For Subtlety

    The Meissen Bison – “²²Rn Rn Rn, ²²Rn Rn”

    That is genius. My nomination for post of the month.

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