Shallow ground water at US Geological Survey research site B in northeastern Oklahoma is contaminated with NaCl-rich brine from past and present oil production operations. Contaminated ground water provides a potential source of salts, metals, and hydrocarbons to sediment and water of adjacent Skiatook Lake. A former brine storage pit 10 m in diameter that is now submerged just offshore from site B provides an additional source of contamination. Cores of the upper 16-40 cm of lake sediment were taken at the submerged brine pit, near an offshore saline seep, and at a location containing relatively uncontaminated lake sediment. Pore waters from each 2-cm interval were separated by centrifugation and analyzed for dissolved anions, cations, and trace elements. High concentrations of dissolved Cl- in pore waters (200-5000 mg/L) provide the most direct evidence of contamination, and contrast sharply with an average value of only about 37 mg/L in Skiatook Lake. Chloride/Br- mass ratios of 220-240 in contaminated pore waters are comparable to values in contaminated well waters collected onshore. Dissolved concentrations of Se, Pb, Cu and Ni in Cl--rich pore waters exceed current US Environmental Protection Agency criteria for probable toxicity to aquatic life. At the submerged brine storage pit, the increase of Cl- concentration with depth is consistent with diffusion-dominant transport from deeper contaminated sediments. Near the offshore saline seep, pore water Cl- concentrations are consistently high and vary irregularly with depth, indicating probable Cl- transport by layer-directed advective flow. Estimated annual contributions of Cl- to the lake from the brine storage pit (???20 kg) and the offshore seep (???9 kg) can be applied to any number of similar sources. Generous estimates of the number of such sources at site B indicate minimal impact on water quality in the local inlet of Skiatook Lake. Similar methodologies can be applied at other sites of NaCl contamination surrounding Skiatook Lake and elsewhere.
Additional publication details
Composition of pore water in lake sediments, research site "B", Osage County, Oklahoma: Implications for lake water quality and benthic organisms