Abstract: Hydrogeologic Model for the Old Hanford Townsite
Quentin C. MacDonald
The Hanford site in southeastern Washington state produced the country's first plutonium during WW II, and production continued through the end of the cold war. This plutonium production generated significant volumes of chemical and radioactive wastes, some of which were discharged directly to the local sediments as wastewater. Artificial recharge is still the dominating influence on the uppermost unconfined aquifer over much of the Hanford site. Groundwater from a portion of this aquifer, which is in excess of drinking water standards for tritium, discharges to the Columbia River in the vicinity of the old Hanford townsite.
The Hanford site lies within the Pasco basin, which is a structural basin in the Columbia Plateau. Columbia River basalt is overlain by the fluvial and lacustrian Ringold formation. The Ringold is unconformably overlain by the informal Hanford formation. Relatively impermeable basalt outcrops and subcrops along a northwest-southeast-trending anticline across the study area. Hanford sediments include both fluvial and glacial flood deposits lying on an irregular surface of basalt and sedimentary rocks. The coarser flood deposits have very high hydraulic conductivity and probably are the most important conduit for contaminant transport within the aquifer.
A finite element model (CFEST-SC) is being used to study the effect of changing river stage on baseflow to the Columbia River near the old Hanford townsite. A steady-state version of the model produces calculated head within 1 m of observed values. Transient flow and solute transport results are expected to help further define the relationship between the contaminated aquifer and the Columbia River.
AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90981©1994 AAPG Pacific Section Meeting, Ventura, California, April 27-29, 1994