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Title: 2015 Advanced Site Investigation and Monitoring Report Riverton, Wyoming, Processing Site September 2016

Abstract

The U.S. Department of Energy conducted initial groundwater characterization of the Riverton, Wyoming, Processing Site in the 1990s. The characterization culminated in a Site Observational Work Plan in 1998 that recommended a natural flushing compliance strategy. Results of verification monitoring indicated that natural flushing was generally progressing as expected until June 2010, when significant increases in contaminant concentrations were measured in several monitoring wells downgradient of the site after the area flooded. In response to the unexpected results following the flood, an enhanced characterization of the surficial aquifer was conducted in 2012, which included installation of 103 boreholes along nine transects with a Geoprobe, collection of 103 water samples and 65 soil samples, laboratory tests on the soil samples, and additional groundwater modeling. This advanced site investigation report summarizes additional investigation in 2015 through the use of backhoe trenching, sonic drilling, multilevel monitoring wells, direct-push drilling, and temporary well points to collect soil and groundwater samples. Additional surface water measurements were made included the installation of a stilling well and the measurement of stream elevation along the Wind River to approximate upgradient groundwater heads. Groundwater sampling included the addition of geochemical constituents and isotopes that have not been sampled inmore » the past to better understand post-flood conditions and the possibility of additional or ongoing contaminant sources. This sampling was performed to (1) better define the contaminant plumes, (2) verify the occurrence of persistent secondary contaminant sources, (3) better understand the reason for the contaminant spikes after a 2010 flood, and (4) assess contaminant plume stagnation near the Little Wind River. This report provides data analyses and interpretations for the 2015 site investigation that addresses these issues and provides recommendations for future efforts. Observations from trenches and sonic drilling indicate the general lithology of the shallow, unconsolidated sediments consists of a silt zone at the surface that ranges from 2.5 to 4.8 feet below ground surface, underlain by sand and gravel, underlain by the top of the weathered bedrock (Wind River Formation). Soil data from trenches and sonic drilling indicate (1) elevated concentrations of several constituents in the silt zone, likely due to the formation of evaporites, (2) uranium is the only measured element that appears to be concentrated in the silt over the groundwater contaminant plume, (3) in the former tailings impoundment area, there may be a thin unsaturated zone with elevated uranium in the native material just below the fill, (4) in the former tailings impoundment area, slightly higher uranium concentrations occur in the underlying saturated sand and gravel, and (5) several bedrock samples have a unique geochemical signature, generally related to a higher silt content. Assessment of groundwater flow included measuring river elevations along the Wind River and installing the temporary well points adjacent to the Little Wind River that provided additional data points to refine contours for water table elevations. These data confirm past interpretations of groundwater flow to the southeast across the site toward the Little Wind River. Hydraulic head elevations between paired surficial and semiconfined aquifer wells indicate variable vertical gradients across the site with the potential for upward and downward flow. Additional direct-push drilling and groundwater sampling confirmed the contaminant plume configuration, but it also revealed a low-sulfate-concentration zone at the edge of the former tailings impoundment. Temporary well points provided better definition of plume concentrations at the bank of the Little Wind River, and data from these wells indicate plume discharge to the river. Additional sampling in an area southwest of the plume that had elevated uranium groundwater concentrations in the past did not have any uranium concentrations above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency maximum concentration limit for uranium. Results from multilevel monitoring wells indicate some geochemical differences with depth, but overall concentrations are similar to those in nearby conventional monitoring wells in the long-term monitoring program. Geochemistry data from these multilevel monitoring wells confirm the general increase in contaminant concentrations toward the river and toward the plume centerline for chloride, sulfate, and uranium but highlight geochemical controls on calcium. Iron data indicate slightly reducing conditions, especially near water table and bedrock surfaces, with more oxidizing conditions in the middle of the sand and gravel. Uranium activity ratios (234U/238U) confirm the uranium plume in the surficial aquifer as being mill related, and the area to the southwest outside the plume as natural, non-mill related. In the semiconfined aquifer, evidence of aquifer connection and impacts from the mill is inconclusive. Values of δD and δ 18O suggest water is derived from different sources and tritium data confirm that the semiconfined aquifer water is generally older than the surficial aquifer water. However, these data do indicate some groundwater communication from the surficial aquifer into the semiconfined aquifer, which resulted in δD and δ 18O and tritium values in the semiconfined aquifer that are more similar to those in the surficial aquifer. Values of δ 34S sulfate in the semiconfined aquifer combined with sulfate concentrations indicate the potential for some mill- related sulfate in the semiconfined aquifer, albeit limited to an area near and beneath the former tailings impoundment. Uranium and molybdenum concentrations in the semiconfined aquifer are below groundwater standards in all wells. However, the elevated molybdenum concentrations at one semiconfined aquifer well underneath the former tailings impoundment suggests a mill- derived source for the uranium and molybdenum in that well. It is possible that aquifer cross- communication occurred when the tailings impoundment was active and created a higher head. Current cross-communication appears unlikely given the large differences in tritium values and an upward hydraulic head at this location. Nine domestic wells are located within the institutional control boundary (eight in the confined aquifer and one in the semiconfined aquifer). Uranium and molybdenum concentrations in all samples collected from these wells were one or two orders of magnitude below the groundwater standards. Surface water flow in the Little Wind River in September 2015 was low compared to historical averages for that time of year. As a result, the uranium concentration measured in the Little Wind River was at a historical maximum at the sampling location upstream of the site. However, the impact of uranium discharge from the groundwater plume into the Little Wind River was not measureable. Elevated sulfate concentrations were observed in an outfall ditch related to an active sulfuric acid plant. Uranium concentrations in the oxbow lake remain at concentrations above the groundwater standard. Plume contaminant concentrations had returned to levels found prior to the 2010 flood by the end of 2015. However, these concentrations still exceed model predictions for natural flushing, and the current data indicate that natural flushing to achieve remediation goals within the 100-year time period is not likely, especially with the high potential for additional floods in the update to the conceptual site model (CSM), soil data indicate additional contaminant sources, specifically uranium, in evaporites within the silt layer over the uranium plume and in naturally reduced zones (NRZs). Additional zones of slightly elevated uranium concentration are in the native sediments just above the water table but below the fill layer in the former tailings impoundment area. This area also has slightly elevated uranium in the sand and gravel below the water table. Mass balance calculations indicate that small amounts of dissolution in any of these zones with increased uranium in the solid phase can produce groundwater uranium concentrations above the groundwater standard and could account for the post-flood uranium spike. The additional uranium near the former tailings impoundment provides a mechanism for a continuing source for the uranium plume that was not considered in earlier natural flushing models. In addition, uranium released from the silt layer or the NRZs seasonally and during flooding may add uranium to the groundwater plume near the Little Wind River. These mechanisms provide a possible explanation for plume persistence, along with spikes in concentrations during floods, that creates the current plume configuration. Additional updates to the CSM include (1) chloride flushes more rapidly than uranium beneath the former mill site, (2) chloride in the silt layer provides a scenario in which chloride cannot be used as a conservative tracer (especially in areas prone to flooding), (3) uranium concentrations with depth can be variable (especially below NRZs), and (4) calcite and gypsum solubility limits appear to provide important geochemical controls on groundwater geochemistry. The conclusion of this study provides several recommendations for additional work to refine the CSM and continue assessment of the natural flushing compliance strategy. Recommendations for additional work include targeted soil and groundwater sampling to assess geochemical conditions, distribution of contaminants, and groundwater/surface water interaction; additional column tests to provide data for geochemical modeling; and development of an updated groundwater flow model, which will be used in conjunction with a geochemical model to assess the viability of the natural flushing compliance strategy.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [2]
  1. U.S. Dept. of Energy, Washington, DC (United States). Office of Legacy Management (LM)
  2. Navarro Research and Engineering, Inc., Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
U.S. Dept. of Energy, Washington, DC (United States). Office of Legacy Management (LM)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Legacy Management (LM), Office of Site Operations (LM-20)
OSTI Identifier:
1351628
Report Number(s):
S-14148
DOE Contract Number:  
LM0000421
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; 2015 Monitoring Riverton, WY

Citation Formats

Frazier, William, and Campbell, Sam. 2015 Advanced Site Investigation and Monitoring Report Riverton, Wyoming, Processing Site September 2016. United States: N. p., 2016. Web. doi:10.2172/1351628.
Frazier, William, & Campbell, Sam. 2015 Advanced Site Investigation and Monitoring Report Riverton, Wyoming, Processing Site September 2016. United States. doi:10.2172/1351628.
Frazier, William, and Campbell, Sam. Thu . "2015 Advanced Site Investigation and Monitoring Report Riverton, Wyoming, Processing Site September 2016". United States. doi:10.2172/1351628. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1351628.
@article{osti_1351628,
title = {2015 Advanced Site Investigation and Monitoring Report Riverton, Wyoming, Processing Site September 2016},
author = {Frazier, William and Campbell, Sam},
abstractNote = {The U.S. Department of Energy conducted initial groundwater characterization of the Riverton, Wyoming, Processing Site in the 1990s. The characterization culminated in a Site Observational Work Plan in 1998 that recommended a natural flushing compliance strategy. Results of verification monitoring indicated that natural flushing was generally progressing as expected until June 2010, when significant increases in contaminant concentrations were measured in several monitoring wells downgradient of the site after the area flooded. In response to the unexpected results following the flood, an enhanced characterization of the surficial aquifer was conducted in 2012, which included installation of 103 boreholes along nine transects with a Geoprobe, collection of 103 water samples and 65 soil samples, laboratory tests on the soil samples, and additional groundwater modeling. This advanced site investigation report summarizes additional investigation in 2015 through the use of backhoe trenching, sonic drilling, multilevel monitoring wells, direct-push drilling, and temporary well points to collect soil and groundwater samples. Additional surface water measurements were made included the installation of a stilling well and the measurement of stream elevation along the Wind River to approximate upgradient groundwater heads. Groundwater sampling included the addition of geochemical constituents and isotopes that have not been sampled in the past to better understand post-flood conditions and the possibility of additional or ongoing contaminant sources. This sampling was performed to (1) better define the contaminant plumes, (2) verify the occurrence of persistent secondary contaminant sources, (3) better understand the reason for the contaminant spikes after a 2010 flood, and (4) assess contaminant plume stagnation near the Little Wind River. This report provides data analyses and interpretations for the 2015 site investigation that addresses these issues and provides recommendations for future efforts. Observations from trenches and sonic drilling indicate the general lithology of the shallow, unconsolidated sediments consists of a silt zone at the surface that ranges from 2.5 to 4.8 feet below ground surface, underlain by sand and gravel, underlain by the top of the weathered bedrock (Wind River Formation). Soil data from trenches and sonic drilling indicate (1) elevated concentrations of several constituents in the silt zone, likely due to the formation of evaporites, (2) uranium is the only measured element that appears to be concentrated in the silt over the groundwater contaminant plume, (3) in the former tailings impoundment area, there may be a thin unsaturated zone with elevated uranium in the native material just below the fill, (4) in the former tailings impoundment area, slightly higher uranium concentrations occur in the underlying saturated sand and gravel, and (5) several bedrock samples have a unique geochemical signature, generally related to a higher silt content. Assessment of groundwater flow included measuring river elevations along the Wind River and installing the temporary well points adjacent to the Little Wind River that provided additional data points to refine contours for water table elevations. These data confirm past interpretations of groundwater flow to the southeast across the site toward the Little Wind River. Hydraulic head elevations between paired surficial and semiconfined aquifer wells indicate variable vertical gradients across the site with the potential for upward and downward flow. Additional direct-push drilling and groundwater sampling confirmed the contaminant plume configuration, but it also revealed a low-sulfate-concentration zone at the edge of the former tailings impoundment. Temporary well points provided better definition of plume concentrations at the bank of the Little Wind River, and data from these wells indicate plume discharge to the river. Additional sampling in an area southwest of the plume that had elevated uranium groundwater concentrations in the past did not have any uranium concentrations above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency maximum concentration limit for uranium. Results from multilevel monitoring wells indicate some geochemical differences with depth, but overall concentrations are similar to those in nearby conventional monitoring wells in the long-term monitoring program. Geochemistry data from these multilevel monitoring wells confirm the general increase in contaminant concentrations toward the river and toward the plume centerline for chloride, sulfate, and uranium but highlight geochemical controls on calcium. Iron data indicate slightly reducing conditions, especially near water table and bedrock surfaces, with more oxidizing conditions in the middle of the sand and gravel. Uranium activity ratios (234U/238U) confirm the uranium plume in the surficial aquifer as being mill related, and the area to the southwest outside the plume as natural, non-mill related. In the semiconfined aquifer, evidence of aquifer connection and impacts from the mill is inconclusive. Values of δD and δ18O suggest water is derived from different sources and tritium data confirm that the semiconfined aquifer water is generally older than the surficial aquifer water. However, these data do indicate some groundwater communication from the surficial aquifer into the semiconfined aquifer, which resulted in δD and δ18O and tritium values in the semiconfined aquifer that are more similar to those in the surficial aquifer. Values of δ34Ssulfate in the semiconfined aquifer combined with sulfate concentrations indicate the potential for some mill- related sulfate in the semiconfined aquifer, albeit limited to an area near and beneath the former tailings impoundment. Uranium and molybdenum concentrations in the semiconfined aquifer are below groundwater standards in all wells. However, the elevated molybdenum concentrations at one semiconfined aquifer well underneath the former tailings impoundment suggests a mill- derived source for the uranium and molybdenum in that well. It is possible that aquifer cross- communication occurred when the tailings impoundment was active and created a higher head. Current cross-communication appears unlikely given the large differences in tritium values and an upward hydraulic head at this location. Nine domestic wells are located within the institutional control boundary (eight in the confined aquifer and one in the semiconfined aquifer). Uranium and molybdenum concentrations in all samples collected from these wells were one or two orders of magnitude below the groundwater standards. Surface water flow in the Little Wind River in September 2015 was low compared to historical averages for that time of year. As a result, the uranium concentration measured in the Little Wind River was at a historical maximum at the sampling location upstream of the site. However, the impact of uranium discharge from the groundwater plume into the Little Wind River was not measureable. Elevated sulfate concentrations were observed in an outfall ditch related to an active sulfuric acid plant. Uranium concentrations in the oxbow lake remain at concentrations above the groundwater standard. Plume contaminant concentrations had returned to levels found prior to the 2010 flood by the end of 2015. However, these concentrations still exceed model predictions for natural flushing, and the current data indicate that natural flushing to achieve remediation goals within the 100-year time period is not likely, especially with the high potential for additional floods in the update to the conceptual site model (CSM), soil data indicate additional contaminant sources, specifically uranium, in evaporites within the silt layer over the uranium plume and in naturally reduced zones (NRZs). Additional zones of slightly elevated uranium concentration are in the native sediments just above the water table but below the fill layer in the former tailings impoundment area. This area also has slightly elevated uranium in the sand and gravel below the water table. Mass balance calculations indicate that small amounts of dissolution in any of these zones with increased uranium in the solid phase can produce groundwater uranium concentrations above the groundwater standard and could account for the post-flood uranium spike. The additional uranium near the former tailings impoundment provides a mechanism for a continuing source for the uranium plume that was not considered in earlier natural flushing models. In addition, uranium released from the silt layer or the NRZs seasonally and during flooding may add uranium to the groundwater plume near the Little Wind River. These mechanisms provide a possible explanation for plume persistence, along with spikes in concentrations during floods, that creates the current plume configuration. Additional updates to the CSM include (1) chloride flushes more rapidly than uranium beneath the former mill site, (2) chloride in the silt layer provides a scenario in which chloride cannot be used as a conservative tracer (especially in areas prone to flooding), (3) uranium concentrations with depth can be variable (especially below NRZs), and (4) calcite and gypsum solubility limits appear to provide important geochemical controls on groundwater geochemistry. The conclusion of this study provides several recommendations for additional work to refine the CSM and continue assessment of the natural flushing compliance strategy. Recommendations for additional work include targeted soil and groundwater sampling to assess geochemical conditions, distribution of contaminants, and groundwater/surface water interaction; additional column tests to provide data for geochemical modeling; and development of an updated groundwater flow model, which will be used in conjunction with a geochemical model to assess the viability of the natural flushing compliance strategy.},
doi = {10.2172/1351628},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {2016},
month = {9}
}