From 1967 until 1986, uranium mine dewatering increased dissolved gross alpha, gross beta, uranium and radium activities and dissolved selenium and molybdenum concentrations in the Puerco River as indicated by time trends, areal patterns involving distance from the mines and stream discharge. Additionally, increased dissolved uranium concentrations were identified in groundwater under the Puerco River from where mine discharges entered the river to approximately the Arizona-New Mexico State line about 65 km downstream. Total mass of uranium and gross alpha activity released to the Puerco River by mine dewatering were estimated as 560 Mg (560 × 106 g) and 260 Ci, respectively. In comparison, a uranium mill tailings pond spill on 16 July 1979, released an estimated 1.5 Mg of uranium and 46 Ci of gross alpha activity. Mass balance calculations for alluvial ground water indicate that most of the uranium released did not remain in solution. Sorption of uranium on sediments and uptake of uranium by plants probably removed the uranium from solution.
Additional Publication Details
Effects of uranium mining discharges on water quality in the Puerco River basin, Arizona and New Mexico
Hydrological Sciences Journal/Journal des Sciences Hydrologiques