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MULLICAN, WILLIAM F., III, ALAN E. FRYAR, and NORMAN D. JOHNS, Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX

ABSTRACT: Perched Aquifers-Their Potential Impact On Contaminant Transport in the Southern High Plains, Texas

Understanding the hydrogeology and hydrochemistry of perched aquifers at potential and known contaminated waste sites has become increasingly important because of the impact these aquifers may have on contaminant transport independent of regional aquifer processes. Investigations of a perched aquifer above the Ogallala aquifer are being conducted in the region of the U.S. Department of Energy's Pantex Plant, a proposed Superfund site, located approximately 20 mi northeast of Amarillo, Texas. Since the early 1950s, a small playa basin located on the Pantex Plant has been used as a waste-water discharge pond with daily discharge rates ranging from 400,000 to 1 million gal.

The focus of this investigation is an unconfined, perched aquifer that overlies a thick silty clay sequence within the upper, mostly unsaturated part of the Ogallala Formation (Neogene). In the area of the Pantex Plant, measured depths to the perched aquifer range from 200 to 300 ft below land surface, whereas depth to the regional Ogallala aquifer ranges from 375 to 500 ft. The potentiometric surface of the perched aquifer typically represents groundwater mounds proximal to the playas and thins into troughs in the interplaya areas. Hydrologic gradients of the primary

mound under investigation are relatively high, ranging from 28 to 45 ft/mi. Calculated transmissivities have a geometric mean of 54 ft2/day, with saturated thicknesses ranging from 4 to as great as 100 ft. Modeling of the perched aquifer was designed to determine how much, if any, discharge to the small playa basin has enhanced recharge to the perched aquifers and increased the vertical and lateral extent of the perched aquifer. Preliminary results indicate that measurements of vertical conductance through the perching silty-clay sequence and recharge rates through playas are critical for calibrating the model. Accurate delineation of rates and flow directions in the perched aquifer is critical to any successful remediation effort.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90991©1993 AAPG Mid-Continent Section Meeting, Amarillo, Texas, October 10-12, 1993.