Selenium in concentrations exceeding the maximum limit, 0.01 milligrams per liter or 10 micrograms per liter, recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service in 'Drinking-Water Standards, 1962,' Public Health Pub. 956, is present in waters in areas near Casper, Wyo. Some streams containing selenium flow into the North Platte River upstream from several municipalities that obtain water from the river and the alluvium along the river.
The area of this investigation includes about 725 square miles in Natrona County in central Wyoming. Study effort was most intensive within the area bounded by the North Platte River, Casper Creek, and Casper Canal, the approximate boundaries of the Kendrick irrigation project.
Geologic formations in the area contain selenium that may have been derived from deposits of seleniferous material or from volcanic emanations brought down by rain. Formations older than Cretaceous age were not considered as important sources of selenium in waters of the area, because no irrigation water is applied to areas underlain by these rocks. The selenium concentration in 82 samples of Cretaceous rocks ranged from less than 10 to 4,200 ?g/kg (micrograms per kilogram of sample); no correlation was found between selenium concentration and the depth at which the sample was collected. Of four samples of Tertiary rocks analyzed, three contained no selenium and one had a selenium concentration of 40 ?g/kg. The selenium concentration in 93 samples of Quaternary rocks ranged from less than 10 to 52.0 ?g/kg, and the highest selenium concentration was generally found at depths less than 4 feet. No geologic formation has consistently high concentrations of selenium, but high concentrations were found at points throughout the study area. Probably the rocks in any locality could be the source of selenium in the water in the surrounding vicinity.
The selenium concentration in water from some wells fluctuates widely. It is concluded that the selenium concentrations in the ground water in these areas have not reached a state of equilibrium in the aquifer. It is possible that such nonequilibrium conditions exist in aquifers throughout much of the area. If so, statements in this report concerning- trends of selenium concentration in ground water are somewhat speculative.Poison Spring Creek, Poison Spider Creek, Oregon Trail Drain, and Casper Creek are the principal tributaries that contribute selenium to the North Platte River. The selenium load, expressed in pounds per day, in Poison Spring Creek and Poison Spider Creek decreased slightly during the first year of sampling and increased slightly during the second year of sampling. The selenium load in Oregon Trail Drain is greatest in late winter and early spring during the period of low flow; the selenium load in Casper Creek varies, but shows no correlation with season and little correlation with stream discharge. The North Platte River above and below the irrigation project had consistently low selenium concentrations, 10 ?g/l (micrograms per liter) or less, in the period April 1968 through June 1969. The total selenium load contributed to the North Platte River from tributaries in the study area is almost undetectable after mixing with the river water.
From the fall of 1968 .to the spring of 1969, results of water sampling in areas influenced by irrigation show that the selenium concentration increased at 29 percent of the locations (average net increase of 64 ?g/l), decreased at 34 percent of the locations (average net decrease of 80 ?g/l), and had little (10 ?g/l or .less) or no change at 37 percent of the locations.
As a comparison, results of water sampling in areas not influenced by irrigation showed that the selenium concentration increased at 2 percent of the locations (average net increase of 30 ?g/l), decreased at 26 percent of the locations (average net decrease of 30?g/l), and had little or no change at 72 percent of the locations. It is not possible to
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Selenium in waters in and adjacent to the Kendrick Project, Natrona County, Wyoming
Water Supply Paper
U.S. Govt. Print. Off.,
WY-MT Water Science Center
iv, 39 p. :ill., maps (3 fold. col. in pocket) ;23 cm.