Dispersion and movement of tritium in a shallow aquifer in Mortandad Canyon at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory Page: 3 of 12
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fhi pout was 'r epared as an account of wor
sponsored by the United Staes Government. Nither
theonired Stby o th e United States Atomic Lnergy
Sthe United Sates nor the their eStptoyees, nor any of
tCe coth ctOr5 sucontractors, or their employees,
nates any warranty, espeess or implied, or assumes any
legal liabitity or respontbilty for the accuy c-
product at broess disclsed. or represents hat its use
ssoculd not infringe peisately owned tights.
DISPERSION AND MOVEMENT OF TRITIUM IN A SHALLOW AQUIFER IN MORTANDAD CANYON
AT THE LOS ALAMOS SCIENTIFIC LABORATORY
William D. Purtymun
Twenty (20) Ci of tritium discharged into Mortandad
Canyon in November 1969 were used to determine the dis-
persion and movement of the tritium in a shallow aquifer
in the alluvium. It took 388 days for the peak concen-
tration to move 3 027 m from the effluent outfall to the
eastern end of the aquifer. The concentration decreased
from 77 700 pCi/ml to 310 pCi/ml in that distance.
Ground water in transit storage contained about 0.9 Ci of
tritium prior to the release of the 20 Ci. About 3.9 Ci
of tritium remained in transit storage at the end of
1970. The remaining 17.0 Ci were lost with
evapotranspiration, infiltration with ground water into
the underlying tuff or suspended with soil moisture above
Liquid wastes from the operation of the
Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (LASL) at
Los Alamos, New Mexico are collected and
processed at the Industrial Waste Treatment
Plant at TA-50 (Technical Area 50). After
treatment the liquids are discharged to
Mortandad Canyon. The stream in the upper
reach of the canyon is perennial due to the
discharge of waste water from TA-50 and
other nearby technical areas. Occasional
storm runoff adds to the surface flow in
The perennial surface flow and storm
runoff recharge a shallow aquifer in the
alluvium that is perched on the underlying
tuff (Fig. 1). As the ground water in
storage in the aquifer moves downgradient,
steady losses to evapotranspiration and in-
filtration into the underlying tuff occur,
so that the aquifer is of limited extent
and forms a shallow ground water body with-
in the project area or LASL boundary. The
water in the shallow aquifer is not a part
of the recharge to the main aquifer which
furnishes industrial and municipal water
supplies. The ground water body is in
movement; therefore, the water is in trans-
Liquid wastes treated and discharged
into Mortandad Canyon generally contain
only traces of tritium. About 20 Ci cf
tritium were discharged with 259 m3 of
water as the result of decontamination of
equipment in November 1969. Tritium in
liquids can not be removed like particu-
lates in regular waste treatment processes.
The movement of tritium in the canyon
was monitored by collecting and analyzing
water samples for tritium from one surface
water station and six observation holes on
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Purtymun, W.D. Dispersion and movement of tritium in a shallow aquifer in Mortandad Canyon at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, report, September 1, 1974; New Mexico. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1016815/m1/3/: accessed April 21, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.