October 5, 2023

Characterization of Contaminants and Mobility in WMA A-AX Boreholes D0006 and D0008


This study was initiated to determine if subsurface contaminants in the A-AX vadose zone at the Hanford site (boreholes D0006 and D0008) caused corrosion of nearby stainless steel well casings (299-E-24-19, 299-E25-46, and 299-E25-236) and, based on the type and distribution of contaminants, determine if contaminants are from one or more sources including a) the A-104 and/or A-105 tanks, b) the 242A evaporator, and c) the 200-E-286 ditch. A tiered approach was used for characterizing contaminants in vadose zone sediments starting with mobile and total contaminant concentrations (Tier 1), characterizing contaminant speciation (Tier 2), and measuring contaminant leaching (Tier 3). Total and mobile contaminant measurements at seven depths showed elevated sulfate and nitrate in all samples (130 to 280 ft depth), elevated chloride in five depths, and no elevated radionuclides except I-129 in D0006 at 206 to 208 ft depth. If these contaminants were initially acidic, stainless-steel corrosion would occur. However, because sediments likely have a high acid neutralization capacity, an acidic spill would have been neutralized within tens of feet, so casing corrosion would likely occur in shallow sediments. GEL labs data also shows low (but above natural) chromate from shallow to 170 ft depth, then higher chromate to 280 ft, suggesting a surface Cr spill or casing corrosion. GEL labs data also showed evidence of more than one plume, with deep nitrate, sulfate, and chloride migration, but only shallow tritium migration. Tritium should migrate nearly unretarded in the subsurface like nitrate and chloride. Elevated aqueous cations and anions in the D0006 206 to 208' depth pore water (SO42-, NO3-, Na+, K+, Ca2+, Mg2+, Si) could be the result of acid disposal and calcite dissolution at shallow depth, with deeper migration of SO42-, NO3- from acids and Ca2+ and Mg2+from calcite. Elevated Si (160 mg/L) indicates dissolution of clays or other silicates, which can also occur in acids. Acid extractable metals did show elevated Cr (but not Fe, Ni, Mo, and Mn) above natural levels, which may indicate stainless-steel well corrosion or transport of metals from a shallow spill. The elevated I-129 in D0006 at 206 to 208' depth was low with 0.34 ?g/g in pore water and 1.5 ?g/g total extractable I-129 in the sediment, which indicates significant fraction of I-129 was bound in one or more precipitates. Although total I-129 was below detection limits in most extractions due to high molybdate interference, I-127 analysis provided some insight into potential precipitate phases. Total I-127 was mainly extracted by acetate or acetic acid (67%), which may be iodine in calcite. Inorganic carbon measurement identified 1.65% calcite, and total organic carbon (TOC) was below detection limits, so iodine was not associated with organic matter. Nearly all the I-127 was present as iodide. In 1-D leach experiments, I-127 as iodide leached from the sediment within 2 pore volumes. Due to high and dynamic molybdate leaching from the sediment and interference with I-129 analysis, there were few quantifiable I-129 measurements. The calculated molybdate release rates from the sediment suggested Mo was being released from the same precipitate phase, such as molybdate incorporated into calcite. Overall, because there was little radioactive contamination measured in D0006 and D0008 boreholes, potential releases from A-104 and A-105 did not reach this location south of the A tank farm. Elevated cations and anions found in D0006 and D0008 at depth as the result of acidic disposal could cause shallow stainless steel casing corrosion. The nearby 242A evaporator generally contained alkaline waste and tritium, but the nearby 200-E-286 ditch generally contained high Cl- liquid effluent, so these are unlikely to be acidic sources.

Published: October 5, 2023


Szecsody J.E., H.P. Emerson, R.D. Mackley, M. Snyder, C.T. Resch, and S.R. Baum. 2022. Characterization of Contaminants and Mobility in WMA A-AX Boreholes D0006 and D0008 Richland, WA: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.