The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy, is studying the fate and transport of waste solutes in the eastern Snake River Plain (ESRP) aquifer at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in eastern Idaho. This effort requires an understanding of the natural and anthropogenic geochemistry of groundwater at the INL and of the important physical and chemical processes controlling the geochemistry. In this study, the USGS applied geochemical modeling to investigate the geochemistry of groundwater in the Beaver and Camas Creek drainage basins, which provide groundwater recharge to the ESRP aquifer underlying the northeastern part of the INL.
Data used in this study include petrology and mineralogy from 2 sediment and 3 rock samples, and water-quality analyses from 4 surface-water and 18 groundwater samples. The mineralogy of the sediment and rock samples was analyzed with X-ray diffraction, and the mineralogy and petrology of the rock samples were examined in thin sections. The water samples were analyzed for field parameters, major ions, silica, nutrients, dissolved organic carbon, trace elements, tritium, and the stable isotope ratios of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, sulfur, and nitrogen.
Groundwater geochemistry was influenced by reactions with rocks of the geologic terranes—carbonate rocks, rhyolite, basalt, evaporite deposits, and sediment comprised of all of these rocks. Agricultural practices near and south of Dubois and application of road anti-icing liquids on U.S. Interstate Highway 15 were likely sources of nitrate, chloride, calcium, and magnesium to groundwater.
Groundwater geochemistry was successfully modeled in the alluvial aquifer in Camas Meadows and the ESRP fractured basalt aquifer using the geochemical modeling code PHREEQC. The primary geochemical processes appear to be precipitation or dissolution of calcite and dissolution of silicate minerals. Dissolution of evaporite minerals, associated with Pleistocene Lake Terreton, is an important contributor of solutes in the Mud Lake-Dubois area. Oxidation-reduction reactions are important influences on the chemistry of groundwater at Camas Meadows and the Camas National Wildlife Refuge. In addition, mixing of different groundwaters or surface water with groundwater appears to be an important physical process influencing groundwater geochemistry in much of the study area, and evaporation may be an important physical process influencing the groundwater geochemistry of the Camas National Wildlife Refuge. The mass-balance modeling results from this study provide an explanation of the natural geochemistry of groundwater in the ESRP aquifer northeast of the INL, and thus provide a starting point for evaluating the natural and anthropogenic geochemistry of groundwater at the INL.