AbstractThe Treated Effluent Disposal Facility (TEDF), located in the 200 East Area of the Hanford Site, is a site where non-hazardous and non-radioactive liquid wastes are disposed into two state-permitted infiltration basins. In 2016, the Washington State Department of Ecology denied a permit renewal request for TEDF due to the inability to adequately assess the impact of TEDF discharge water on the underlying groundwater quality. TEDF overlies the relatively impermeable Ringold Lower Mud (RLM) unit, whose upper contact lies in the vadose zone approximately 30 m below ground surface and approximately 10 m above the water table boundary. The RLM is assumed to isolate TEDF discharge water from the natural groundwater aquifer, which is monitored using wellbores screened below the RLM. Therefore, samples collected from monitoring wells near TEDF are not considered representative of TEDF discharge water. Rather, TEDF discharge water is assumed to mound on top of the RLM to form a perched aquifer. To support permitting of the TEDF, a new monitoring well is required that can be used to sample water from the presumed perched water aquifer above the RLM. Ideally, the screened section of the well would be located at the peak of the perched water mound(s), which presumably occurs at the point of maximum vertical flux from TEDF to the RLM, or equivalently where the dominant infiltration flow paths reach the RLM. This report describes how time-lapse 3D electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) was used in conjunction with nominal TEDF discharge operations to image the dominant flow paths from each pond to the RLM. Results are summarized in Figure ES.1. Figure ES.1A shows a satellite image of the TEDF overlain by an array of surface ERT electrodes. The solid and dashed black circles denote the zones of maximum vertical flux at the RLM within the south and north ponds, respectively, and presumably the regions where perched water peaks during discharge. Figure ES.1B shows time-lapse difference imaging results approximately 15 days after switching discharge from the south pond to the north pond. Blue iso-surfaces beneath the north pond denote regions of increasing bulk electrical conductivity caused by increasing saturation due to infiltrating water. Red iso-surfaces beneath the south pond denote regions that were previously saturated during the south pond discharge and are now de-saturating, causing a decrease in bulk electrical conductivity. In both cases, the zones of maximum change mark the dominant flow paths to the RLM. Figure ES.1C shows time-lapse imaging results approximately 15 days after switching discharge from the north pond to the south pond. In this case, blue iso-surfaces mark the dominant flow paths to the RLM from the south pond. The red iso-surfaces mark the dominant flow paths that existed during discharge to the north pond. The regions of maximum change in bulk conductivity (due to saturation or desaturation) that mark the primary flow paths are equivalent in both cases and denoted by the dashed solid and black circles. If a perched water zone forms on the RLM, it is likely to mound within or near the dashed circle during discharge to the north pond, and in the solid circle during discharge to the south pond. In other words, if perched water mounding occurs, the circles mark the optimum locations suggested by the ERT imaging for monitoring boreholes to be placed, enabling samples to be collected that are representative of TEDF discharge impacts on groundwater quality.
Published: September 8, 2023