The southern Williston basin, which underlies about 110,000 square miles #n North Dakota, South Dakota, and eastern Montana, is part of a large structural and sedimentary basin. Its surface is a flat to gently rolling plain, standing about 1,500 to 3,500 feet above sea level and locally studded by a few high buttes. The sedimentary sequence that fills the basin has a maximum thickness of about 16,700 feet and rests on Precambrian metamorphic rocks at depths of 500 to 13,900 feet below sea level. It contains rocks of every geologic system, from Cambrian to Quaternary. Rocks of Middle Cambrian through Middle Ordovician age are largely shale and sandstone, as much as 1,200 feet thick; rocks of Late Ordovician through Pennsylvanian age are largely limestone and dolomite, as much as 7,500 feet thick; and rocks of Permian through Tertiary age are predominantly shale and siltstone, as much as 8,000 feet thick. Pleistocene glacial drift mantles the northern and eastern parts of the area. Rocks of the Williston basin are gently folded and regional dips are 1? or less from the margins to the basin center. Dips on the flanks of the major anticlinal folds, the Nesson and cedar Creek anticlines and the Poplar and Bowdoin domes, generally are about 1? to 3? except on the steep west limb of the Cedar Creek anticline. The basin was shaped by Laramide orogeny during latest Cretaceous and early Tertiary time. Most of the present structural features, however, were initiated during the Precambrian and reactivated by several subsequent orogenies, of which the latest was the Laramide. The most important mineral resource of the area is oil, which is produced predominantly from the Paleozoic carbonate sequence and largely on three of the major anticlinal folds, and lignite, which is present near the surface in Paleocene rocks.
The subsurface disposal of radioactive wastes at some places in the Williston basin appears to be geographically and geologically feasible. Many sites, at which large quantities of wastes might be injected with minimal danger of contamination of fresh-water aquifers and-oil-producing strata, are available.. The strata and types of reservoirs that deserve primary consideration for waste disposal are the Winnipeg Formation of Middle Ordovician age as a deep salaquifer, the Permian to Jurassic salt beds as moderately deep-units in which solution cavities might be created for storage, the thick Upper Cretaceous shale beds as shallow hydraulically fractured shale reservoirs, and the Newcastle Sandstone of Early Cretaceous age as a shallow shale-enclosed sandstone reservoir.
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USGS Numbered Series
Geology of the Williston basin, North Dakota, Montana, and South Dakota, with reference to subsurface disposal of radioactive wastes