The chemistry of three stream, three spring and six near-surface waters in the vicinity of a Holocene organic-rich uranium deposit is described, with particular emphasis on the chemistry of U. Results characterize the solution behavior of uranium as U-bearing water interacts with relatively undecomposed, surficial organic matter. Of the measured major and trace chemical species, only U is consistently highly enriched (17-318 ppb) relative to reported values for regional waters, or to literature values for waters in largely granitic terrains. R-mode factor analysis of the chemical data suggests that most U is present in a soluble form, but that some U is also associated with fine suspended particulates of clay, organic matter, or hydrous oxides. Calculations that apply thermodynamic data to predict U speciation in solution indicate the relative importance of uranyl carbonate and uranyl phosphate complexes. Analysis of more finely filtered samples (0.05 ??m vs. 0.45 ??m), and direct radiographic observations using fission-track detectors suspended in the waters indicate the presence of some uraniferous particulate matter. Application of existing thermodynamic data for uranous- and uranyl-bearing minerals indicates that all waters are undersaturated with U minerals as long as ambient Eh ??? +0.1 v. If coexisting surface and near-surface waters are sufficiently oxidizing, initial fixation of U in the deposit should be by a mechanism of adsorption. Alternatively, more reducing conditions may prevail in deeper pore waters of the organic-rich host sediments, perhaps leading to direct precipitation or diagenetic formation of U4+ minerals. A 234U 238U alpha activity ratio of 1.08 ?? 0.02 in a spring issuing from a hillslope above the deposit suggests a relatively soluble source of U. In contrast, higher activity ratios of 234U 238U (??? 1.3) in waters in contact with the uraniferous valley-fill sediments suggest differences in the nature of interaction between groundwater and the local, U-rich source rocks. ?? 1987.
Additional publication details
The geochemistry of water near a surficial organic-rich uranium deposit, northeastern Washington State, U.S.A.