Correlation between basalt flows and radiochemical and chemical constituents in selected wells in the southwestern part of the Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho

Scientific Investigations Report 2017-5148
DOE/ID-22245
Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy
By: , and 

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Abstract

Wastewater discharged to wells and ponds and wastes buried in shallow pits and trenches at facilities at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) have contributed contaminants to the eastern Snake River Plain (ESRP) aquifer in the southwestern part of the INL. This report describes the correlation between subsurface stratigraphy in the southwestern part of the INL with information on the presence or absence of wastewater constituents to better understand how flow pathways in the aquifer control the movement of wastewater discharged at INL facilities. Paleomagnetic inclination was used to identify subsurface basalt flows based on similar inclination measurements, polarity, and stratigraphic position. Tritium concentrations, along with other chemical information for wells where tritium concentrations were lacking, were used as an indicator of which wells were influenced by wastewater disposal.

The basalt lava flows in the upper 150 feet of the ESRP aquifer where wastewater was discharged at the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center (INTEC) consisted of the Central Facilities Area (CFA) Buried Vent flow and the AEC Butte flow. At the Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) Complex, where wastewater would presumably pond on the surface of the water table, the CFA Buried Vent flow probably occurs as the primary stratigraphic unit present; however, AEC Butte flow also could be present at some of the locations. At the Radioactive Waste Management Complex (RWMC), where contamination from buried wastes would presumably move down through the unsaturated zone and pond on the surface of the water table, the CFA Buried Vent; Late Basal Brunhes; or Early Basal Brunhes basalt flows are the flow unit at or near the water table in different cores.

In the wells closer to where wastewater disposal occurred at INTEC and the ATR-Complex, almost all the wells show wastewater influence in the upper part of the ESRP aquifer and wastewater is present in both the CFA Buried Vent flow and AEC Butte flow. The CFA Buried Vent flow and AEC Butte flow are also present in wells at and north of CFA and are all influenced by wastewater contamination. All wells with the AEC Butte flow present have wastewater influence and 83 percent of the wells with the more prevalent CFA Buried Vent flow have wastewater influence. South and southeast of CFA, most wells are not influenced by wastewater disposal and are completed in the Big Lost Flow and the CFA Buried Vent flow. Wells southwest of CFA are influenced by wastewater disposal and are completed in the Big Lost flow and CFA Buried Vent flow at the top of the aquifer. Basalt stratigraphy indicates that the CFA Buried Vent flow is the predominant flow in the upper part of the ESRP aquifer at and near the RWMC as it is present in all the wells in this area. The Late Basal Brunhes flow, Middle Basal Brunhes flow, Early Basal Brunhes flow, South Late Matuyama flow, and Matuyama flow are also present in various wells influenced by waste disposal.

Some wells south of RWMC do not show wastewater influence, and the lack of wastewater influence could be due to low hydraulic conductivities. Several wells south and southeast of CFA also do not show wastewater influence. Low hydraulic conductivities or ESRP subsidence are possible causes for lack of wastewater south of CFA.

Multilevel monitoring wells completed much deeper in the aquifer show influence of wastewater in numerous basalt flows. Well Middle 2051 (northwest of RWMC) does not show wastewater influence in its upper three basalt flows (CFA Buried Vent, Late Basal Brunhes, and Middle Basal Brunhes); however, wastewater is present in two deeper flows (the Matuyama and Jaramillo flows). Well USGS 131A (southwest of CFA) and USGS132 (south of RWMC) both show wastewater influence in all the basalt flows sampled in the upper 600 feet of the aquifer. Wells USGS 137A, 105, 108, and 103 completed along the southern boundary of the INL all show wastewater influence in several basalt flows including the G flow, Middle and Early Basal Brunhes flows, the South Late Matuyama flow and the Matuyama flow; however, the strongest wastewater influence appears to be in the South Late Matuyama flow. The concentrations of wastewater constituents in deeper parts of these wells support the concept of groundwater flow deepening in the southwestern part of the INL.

Suggested Citation

Bartholomay, R.C., Hodges, M.K.V., and Champion, D.E., 2017, Correlation between basalt flows and radiochemical and chemical constituents in selected wells in the southwestern part of the Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2017–5148 (DOE/ID-22245), 39 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20175148.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Sampling and Analytical Techniques for Basalt Flows
  • Sampling and Analytical Techniques for Tritium Concentrations
  • Correlation between Basalt Flows and Wastewater Constituents in the Aquifer
  • Advanced Test Reactor Complex and Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center Area
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • References Cited
  • Appendix A. Paleomagnetic Inclination Values and Basalt Flow from Coreholes in the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer at the Idaho National Laboratory

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Correlation between basalt flows and radiochemical and chemical constituents in selected wells in the southwestern part of the Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2017-5148
DOI 10.3133/sir20175148
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Idaho Water Science Center
Description Report: v, 39 p.; Appendix A Tables
Country United States
State Idaho
Other Geospatial Idaho National Laboratory
Online Only (Y/N) Y