Your god is a trickster god: new miracle lake may be radioactive

Well, that’s a bummer. Gafsa, Tunisia has been in drought conditions for a while so when a lake turned up three weeks ago, seemingly from nowhere, residents were thrilled.

Since then, hundreds of people have flocked to the oasis-like formation dubbed “Lac de Gafsa” or Gafsa Beach. Families swim there, youths leap from surrounding rocks into its clear waters and the curious — and the cautious — come equipped with scuba gear.

“Some say that it is a miracle, while others are calling it a curse,” FRANCE24’s Tunisian correspondent Lakhdar Souid said.

Authorities have offered no official explanation for the lake’s origins but local geologists believe seismic activity may have upset the water table and caused groundwater to rise to the surface.

This is a problem because there are phosphate mines in the area. It’s reported in the article that phosphate can leave a radioactive residue which could be leaching into that water. Use of the water has not yet been banned, but the Office of Public Safety has tried to warn people of the risks. They don’t yet care, I guess. It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt… Sorry.

Interestingly, I was listening to an old Radiolab podcast yesterday called Oops. One of the stories featured involved Butte, Montana and a large lake that developed at Berkeley Pit on account of the copper mines there. When the mining ceased to be profitable, the companies closed the mines and shut off the pumps that were keeping the area dry for miners. Since the mid ’80s the water’s been rising and it’s completely toxic to life. Except for some weird yeast that was discovered in there, dropped on account of a flock of geese that died horribly and left parts of their innards in there. Apparently geese can handle some toxicity in their food because they have this stuff in them.

Fascinating.

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