Radium and uranium concentrations in water from 37 wells tapping the aquifer system of the Dakota Sandstone and Purgatoire Formation in southwestern Pueblo County, Colorado, have a wide range of values and define several areas of high radioactivity in the ground water. Radium ranges from 0.3 to 420 picocuries per liter and has a median value of 8.8, and uranium ranges from 0.02 to 180 micrograms per liter and has a median value of 2.4. Radon concentrations, measured in 32 of the 37 wells, range from less than 100 picocuries per liter to as much as 27,000 and have a median value of 580. Relationships among the radioactive elements and 28 other geochemical parameters were studied by using correlation coefficients and R-mode factor analysis. Five factor groups were determined to represent major influences on water chemistry: (1) short-term solution reactions, (2) oxidation reactions, (3) hydrolysis reactions, (4) uranium distribution, and (5) long-term solution reactions. Uranium concentrations are most strongly influenced by oxidation reactions but also are affected by solution reactions and distribution of uranium in the rocks of the aquifer system. Radon and radium concentrations are mostly controlled by uranium distribution; radium also shows a moderate negative relationship with oxidation.
To explain the statistical and spatial relationships among the parameters, a model was developed involving the selective leaching of uranium-bearing phases and metal sulfides which occur in discontinuous zones in sandstone and shale. When reducing conditions prevail, uranium is immobile, but radium can be taken into solution. When faults and associated fractured rocks allow oxidizing conditions to dominate, uranium can be taken into solution; radium can also be taken into solution, or it may become immobilized by coprecipitation with iron and manganese oxides or with barite. Several areas within the study area are discussed in terms of the model.