The system of springs in Delta County, Colo., contains geochemical clues to the nature and location of buried uranium-mineralized rock. The springs, which occur along the Gunnison River and a principal tributary between Delta and Paonia, are regarded as evidence of a still-functioning hydrothermal system. Associated with the springs are hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide gas seeps, carbon dioxide gas-powered geysers, thick travertine deposits including radioactive travertine, and a flowing warm-water (41?C) radioactive well. Geochemical study of the springs is based on surface observations, on-site water-property measurements, and sampling of water, travertine, soft precipitates, and mud. The spring deposits are mostly carbonates, sulfates, sulfides, and chlorides that locally contain notable amounts of some elements, such as arsenic, barium, lithium, and radium. Samples from five localities have somewhat different trace element assemblages even though they are related to the same hydrothermal system. All the spring waters but one are dominated by sodium chloride or sodium bicarbonate. The exception is an acid sulfate water with a pH of 2.9, which contains high concentrations of aluminum and iron.
Most of the detectable radioactivity is due to the presence of radium-226, a uranium daughter product, but at least one spring precipitate contains abundant radium-228, a thorium daughter product. The 5:1 ratio of radium-228 to radium-226 suggests the proximity of a vein-type deposit as a source for the radium. The proposed locus of a thorium-uranium mineral deposit is believed to lie in the vicinity of Paonia, Colo. Exact direction and depth are not determinable from data now available.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Radioactive mineral springs in Delta County, Colorado