The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy, analyzed water-quality data collected from 67 aquifer wells and 7 surface-water sites at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) from 1949 through 2009. The data analyzed included major cations, anions, nutrients, trace elements, and total organic carbon. The analyses were performed to examine water-quality trends that might inform future management decisions about the number of wells to sample at the INL and the type of constituents to monitor. Water-quality trends were determined using (1) the nonparametric Kendall's tau correlation coefficient, p-value, Theil-Sen slope estimator, and summary statistics for uncensored data; and (2) the Kaplan-Meier method for calculating summary statistics, Kendall's tau correlation coefficient, p-value, and Akritas-Theil-Sen slope estimator for robust linear regression for censored data. Statistical analyses for chloride concentrations indicate that groundwater influenced by Big Lost River seepage has decreasing chloride trends or, in some cases, has variable chloride concentration changes that correlate with above-average and below-average periods of recharge. Analyses of trends for chloride in water samples from four sites located along the Big Lost River indicate a decreasing trend or no trend for chloride, and chloride concentrations generally are much lower at these four sites than those in the aquifer. Above-average and below-average periods of recharge also affect concentration trends for sodium, sulfate, nitrate, and a few trace elements in several wells. Analyses of trends for constituents in water from several of the wells that is mostly regionally derived groundwater generally indicate increasing trends for chloride, sodium, sulfate, and nitrate concentrations. These increases are attributed to agricultural or other anthropogenic influences on the aquifer upgradient of the INL. Statistical trends of chemical constituents from several wells near the Naval Reactors Facility may be influenced by wastewater disposal at the facility or by anthropogenic influence from the Little Lost River basin. Groundwater samples from three wells downgradient of the Power Burst Facility area show increasing trends for chloride, nitrate, sodium, and sulfate concentrations. The increases could be caused by wastewater disposal in the Power Burst Facility area. Some groundwater samples in the southwestern part of the INL and southwest of the INL show concentration trends for chloride and sodium that may be influenced by wastewater disposal. Some of the groundwater samples have decreasing trends that could be attributed to the decreasing concentrations in the wastewater from the late 1970s to 2009. The young fraction of groundwater in many of the wells is more than 20 years old, so samples collected in the early 1990s are more representative of groundwater discharged in the 1960s and 1970s, when concentrations in wastewater were much higher. Groundwater sampled in 2009 would be representative of the lower concentrations of chloride and sodium in wastewater discharged in the late 1980s. Analyses of trends for sodium in several groundwater samples from the central and southern part of the eastern Snake River aquifer show increasing trends. In most cases, however, the sodium concentrations are less than background concentrations measured in the aquifer. Many of the wells are open to larger mixed sections of the aquifer, and the increasing trends may indicate that the long history of wastewater disposal in the central part of the INL is increasing sodium concentrations in the groundwater.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Water-quality characteristics and trends for selected sites at and near the Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho, 1949-2009