Ground water is the major source of drinking water in the Carson River Basin, California and Nevada. Previous studies have shown that uranium and gross-alpha radioactivities in ground water can be greater than U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Maximum Contaminant Levels, particularly in the Carson Desert, Churchill County, Nevada. Studies also have shown that the primary source of the gross-alpha radioactivity and alpha-emitting radionuclides in ground water is the dissolution of uranium-rich granitic rocks and basin-fill sediments that have their origins in the Sierra Nevada. However, ground water sampled from some wells in the Carson Desert had gross-alpha radioactivities greater than could be accounted for by the decay of dissolved uranium. The occurrence of polonium-210 (Po-210) was hypothesized to explain the higher than expected gross-alpha radioactivities.
This report documents and describes the study design, field and analytical methods, and data used to determine whether Po-210 is the source of excess gross-alpha radioactivity in ground water underlying the Carson Desert in and around Fallon, Nevada. Specifically, this report presents: 1) gross alpha and uranium radioactivities for 100 wells sampled from June to September 2001; and 2) pH, dissolved oxygen, specific conductance, and Po-210 radioactivity for 25 wells sampled in April and June 2007. Results of quality-control samples for the 2007 dataset are also presented.
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USGS Numbered Series
Methods and Data Used to Investigate Polonium-210 as a Source of Excess Gross-Alpha Radioactivity in Ground Water, Churchill County, Nevada