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Title: Evaluation of Pre- and Post- Redevelopment Groundwater Chemical Analyses from LM Monitoring Wells

This report documents the efforts and analyses conducted for the Applied Studies and Technology (AS&T) Ancillary Work Plan (AWP) project titled Evaluation of Pre- and Post- Redevelopment Groundwater Sample Laboratory Analyses from Selected LM Groundwater Monitoring Wells. This effort entailed compiling an inventory of nearly 500 previous well redevelopment events at 16 U.S. Department of Energy Office of Legacy Management (LM) sites, searching the literature for impacts of well redevelopment on groundwater sample quality, and—the focus of this report—evaluating the impacts of well redevelopment on field measurements and sample analytical results. Study Catalyst Monitoring well redevelopment, the surging or high-volume pumping of a well to loosen and remove accumulated sediment and biological build-up from a well, is considered an element of monitoring well maintenance that is implemented periodically during the lifetime of the well to mitigate its gradual deterioration. Well redevelopment has been conducted fairly routinely at a few LM sites in the western United States (e.g., the Grand Junction office site and the Gunnison processing site in Colorado), but at most other sites in this region it is not a routine practice. Also, until recently (2014–2015), there had been no specific criteria for implementing well redevelopment, and documentation ofmore » redevelopment events has been inconsistent. A catalyst for this evaluation was the self-identification of these inconsistencies by the Legacy Management Support contractor. As a result, in early 2015 Environmental Monitoring Operations (EMO) staff began collecting and documenting additional field measurements during well redevelopment events. In late 2015, AS&T staff undertook an independent internal evaluation of EMO's well redevelopment records and corresponding pre- and post-well-redevelopment groundwater analytical results. Study Findings Although literature discussions parallel the prevailing industry-wide assumption that well redevelopment is necessary to increase production or to extend the life of a well, no data in the literature indicate that redevelopment affects chemical signatures in monitoring wells. The comprehensive evaluation undertaken for this study also yielded no evidence that redevelopment has any quantifiable or predictable effect on groundwater sample quality. Both short-term and long-term changes in groundwater chemistry were assessed relative to preceding and subsequent well redevelopment events. Although short-term changes in specific conductance or contaminant concentrations likely attributable to well redevelopment were found at some sites, these cases were limited to a small subset of wells in which chemical stratification had been observed. Redevelopment causes mixing of the well water, resulting in short-term impacts, but not in a consistent direction. Long-term groundwater concentration trends of uranium, the primary contaminant of concern at most LM Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act (UMTRCA) sites, were evaluated for all 16 sites addressed in this study. Based on the data evaluated, there are no apparent impacts of well redevelopment on uranium trends. In most cases where deviations in trends were found, these could be attributed to water level fluctuations or other factors. A few exceptions were found where spikes or marked decreases in uranium concentrations could potentially be related to the preceding well redevelopment, but apparent impacts were neither predictable nor quantifiable. Summary and Recommendations A catalyst for this project was a concern that there was a need for strict criteria for a program-wide approach to well redevelopment at LM sites. There was also an implicit question as to whether well redevelopment was a necessary practice that was being overlooked at some sites. The primary objective of this study was to determine if there are significant differences in laboratory analytical results between pre- and post-redevelopment groundwater samples. Results of this evaluation indicate that this is not the case—groundwater concentrations of uranium, the primary contaminant of concern at most LM UMTRCA sites, generally remained unchanged pre- and post-well-redevelopment. The literature supports redevelopment of monitoring and municipal wells if signs of reduced productivity, biofouling, sediment buildup, or other conditions potentially affecting long-term well integrity are observed. In these cases, use of a downhole camera to examine the condition of the well screen and casing may be useful. However, based on the data sets examined for this study, there is no evidence that well redevelopment is needed in order to obtain samples that have the same chemical concentrations as those in the groundwater. To conclusively demonstrate that point—that is, to define chemical effects—the underlying mechanisms have to be understood. For example, if biofouling is observed in a well and is considered a potential cause of spurious or invalid chemical data, appropriate hypothesis-testing ethodology should be used to test the validity of this claim. Until late 2014, the onset of this project, there was no standard procedure for documenting well redevelopment events; some (perhaps many) had not been captured in the historical record. EMO has made notable progress in this regard since 2015, having established a format for documenting well redevelopment events and associated field measurements, as well as a data repository for capturing those records. This policy should be continued to ensure that all well redevelopment events and associated field observations are recorded and easily tracked.« less
 [1] ;  [2]
  1. Navarro Reserch and Engineering, Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
  2. US Department of Energy, Washington, DC (United States). Office of Legacy Management
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
LMS/ESL/S--13805; ESL-RPT--2016-2
TRN: US1601524
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
US Department of Energy, Washington, DC (United States). Office of Legacy Management
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Legacy Management (LM), Office of Site Operations (LM-20)
Country of Publication:
United States