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Title: Concepts of Groundwater Occurrence and Flow Near Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee

Abstract

Previous studies of the area near Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) assumed that nearly all groundwater from precipitation and infiltration moves vertically down to the water table and then follows a combination of intergranular and fracture flow paths to the streams. These studies also generally assumed nearly linear flow paths, amounts of groundwater flow that are determined by differences in water-level elevation, large permeability differences between regolith and bedrock, and important hydrologic differences between named geologic units. It has been commonly stated for 37 years, for example, that the Conasauga Group has fewer cavities and is less permeable than the Chickamauga Group. All of these assumptions and conclusions are faulty. The new concepts in this report may be controversial, but they explain the available data. Only the stormflow zone from land surface to a depth of 1-2 m has a permeability large enough to transport most groundwater to the streams. Calculations show that 90-95% of all groundwater flow is in the stormflow zone, 4-9% is in a few water-producing intervals below the water table, and about 1% occurs in other intervals. The available data also show that nearly all groundwater flows through enlarged openings such as macropores, fractures, and cavities,more » and that there are no significant differences between regolith and bedrock or between the Conasauga Group and the Chickamauga group. Flow paths apparently are much more complex than was previously assumed. Multiple paths connect any two points below the water table, and each flow path is more likely to be tortuous than linear. Hydraulic gradients are affected by this complexity and by changes in hydraulic potential on steep hillsides. Below the water table, a large difference in the head of two points generally does not indicate a large flow rate between these points. Groundwater storage in amounts above field capacity is apparently intergranular in only the stormflow and vadose zones. At deeper levels all effective porosity is in fractures. The subsurface hydrology of the ORNL area is also more favorable for the containment of radioactive wastes than has been indicated by previous reports. A relatively simple solution should be possible for the problem of radionuclide migration in groundwater. The key concepts for most remedial investigations may be hydrologic isolation of contaminated materials by stopping infiltration and lateral flows in the stormflow zone.« less

Authors:
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
ORNL Oak Ridge National Laboratory (US)
Sponsoring Org.:
OFFICE OF ENERGY RESEARCH, DOE (US)
OSTI Identifier:
814097
Report Number(s):
ORNL/TM-10969
TRN: US0303990
DOE Contract Number:  
AC05-00OR22725
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Resource Relation:
Other Information: PBD: 1 Jan 1988
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
12 MANAGEMENT OF RADIOACTIVE WASTES, AND NON-RADIOACTIVE WASTES FROM NUCLEAR FACILITIES; 54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; CAPACITY; CAVITIES; CONTAINMENT; FLOW RATE; FRACTURES; HYDRAULICS; HYDROLOGY; PERMEABILITY; POROSITY; PRECIPITATION; RADIOACTIVE WASTES; RADIONUCLIDE MIGRATION; STORAGE; WATER TABLES

Citation Formats

Moore, G.K. Concepts of Groundwater Occurrence and Flow Near Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee. United States: N. p., 1988. Web. doi:10.2172/814097.
Moore, G.K. Concepts of Groundwater Occurrence and Flow Near Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee. United States. doi:10.2172/814097.
Moore, G.K. Fri . "Concepts of Groundwater Occurrence and Flow Near Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee". United States. doi:10.2172/814097. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/814097.
@article{osti_814097,
title = {Concepts of Groundwater Occurrence and Flow Near Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee},
author = {Moore, G.K.},
abstractNote = {Previous studies of the area near Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) assumed that nearly all groundwater from precipitation and infiltration moves vertically down to the water table and then follows a combination of intergranular and fracture flow paths to the streams. These studies also generally assumed nearly linear flow paths, amounts of groundwater flow that are determined by differences in water-level elevation, large permeability differences between regolith and bedrock, and important hydrologic differences between named geologic units. It has been commonly stated for 37 years, for example, that the Conasauga Group has fewer cavities and is less permeable than the Chickamauga Group. All of these assumptions and conclusions are faulty. The new concepts in this report may be controversial, but they explain the available data. Only the stormflow zone from land surface to a depth of 1-2 m has a permeability large enough to transport most groundwater to the streams. Calculations show that 90-95% of all groundwater flow is in the stormflow zone, 4-9% is in a few water-producing intervals below the water table, and about 1% occurs in other intervals. The available data also show that nearly all groundwater flows through enlarged openings such as macropores, fractures, and cavities, and that there are no significant differences between regolith and bedrock or between the Conasauga Group and the Chickamauga group. Flow paths apparently are much more complex than was previously assumed. Multiple paths connect any two points below the water table, and each flow path is more likely to be tortuous than linear. Hydraulic gradients are affected by this complexity and by changes in hydraulic potential on steep hillsides. Below the water table, a large difference in the head of two points generally does not indicate a large flow rate between these points. Groundwater storage in amounts above field capacity is apparently intergranular in only the stormflow and vadose zones. At deeper levels all effective porosity is in fractures. The subsurface hydrology of the ORNL area is also more favorable for the containment of radioactive wastes than has been indicated by previous reports. A relatively simple solution should be possible for the problem of radionuclide migration in groundwater. The key concepts for most remedial investigations may be hydrologic isolation of contaminated materials by stopping infiltration and lateral flows in the stormflow zone.},
doi = {10.2172/814097},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {Fri Jan 01 00:00:00 EST 1988},
month = {Fri Jan 01 00:00:00 EST 1988}
}

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