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Ground-water hydrology and subsurface migration of radioisotopes at a low-level solid radioactive-waste disposal site, West Valley, New York

Open-File Report 77-566

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Abstract

Burial trenches for disposal of solid radioactive waste at West Valley, N.Y., are excavated in till that has very low hydraulic conductivity (about 5 x 10 to the minus 8th power centimeters per second). Fractures and root tubes with chemically oxidized and (or) reduced soil in their walls extend to 3 to 4.5 meters below natural land surface. Preliminary simulations of pressure heads with a digital model suggest that hydraulic conductivity is an order of magnitude greater in the fractured till near land surface than at greater depth. Hydraulic gradients are predominantly downward, even beneath small valleys. The upper part of a body of underlying lacustrine silt is unsaturated; in the lower, saturated part, slow lateral flow may occur. In the older trenches, water began to build up in 1971, overflowed briefly in 1975, and was pumped out in 1975-76. Water levels rose abruptly during major rainstorms in mid-1975, indicating rapid infiltration through cracks in the cover material. The new trenches have maintained low, stable water levels, perhaps because of thicker, more compact cover and less waste settlement; pressure heads near these trenches are low, locally approaching zero, perhaps because of slight infiltration and limited near-surface storage. Peak tritium concentrations in test-hole cores (generally 0.00001 to 0.001 microcuries per milliliter) were found within 3 meters of land surface and are attributed to surface contamination. Concentrations declined rapidly with depth within the fractured till; secondary peaks found at about 9 meters in three holes are attributed to lateral migration from trenches. Other radioisotopes were detected only near land surface. Samples from the walls of shallow fractures revealed no accumulation of radioisotopes. (Woodard-USGS)

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Ground-water hydrology and subsurface migration of radioisotopes at a low-level solid radioactive-waste disposal site, West Valley, New York
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
77-566
Edition:
-
Year Published:
1977
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey,
Description:
iv, 28 leaves :ill., map ;27 cm.