From 2005 to 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey's Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Project office, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy, collected water-quality samples from multiple water-bearing zones in the eastern Snake River Plain aquifer. Water samples were collected from six monitoring wells completed in about 350-700 feet of the upper part of the aquifer, and the samples were analyzed for major ions, selected trace elements, nutrients, selected radiochemical constituents, and selected stable isotopes. Each well was equipped with a multilevel monitoring system containing four to seven sampling ports that were each isolated by permanent packer systems. The sampling ports were installed in aquifer zones that were highly transmissive and that represented the water chemistry of the top four to five model layers of a steady-state and transient groundwater-flow model. The model's water chemistry and particle-tracking simulations are being used to better define movement of wastewater constituents in the aquifer.
The results of the water chemistry analyses indicated that, in each of four separate wells, one zone of water differed markedly from the other zones in the well. In four wells, one zone to as many as five zones contained radiochemical constituents that originated from wastewater disposal at selected laboratory facilities. The multilevel sampling systems are defining the vertical distribution of wastewater constituents in the eastern Snake River Plain aquifer and the concentrations of wastewater constituents in deeper zones in wells Middle 2051, USGS 132, and USGS 103 support the concept of groundwater flow deepening in the southwestern part of the INL.