Concepts of Groundwater Occurrence and Flow Near Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee

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Previous studies of the area near Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) assumed that nearly all groundwater from precipitation and infiltration moves vertically down to the water table and then follows a combination of intergranular and fracture flow paths to the streams. These studies also generally assumed nearly linear flow paths, amounts of groundwater flow that are determined by differences in water-level elevation, large permeability differences between regolith and bedrock, and important hydrologic differences between named geologic units. It has been commonly stated for 37 years, for example, that the Conasauga Group has fewer cavities and is less permeable than the ... continued below

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108 pages

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Moore, G.K. January 1, 1988.

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Description

Previous studies of the area near Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) assumed that nearly all groundwater from precipitation and infiltration moves vertically down to the water table and then follows a combination of intergranular and fracture flow paths to the streams. These studies also generally assumed nearly linear flow paths, amounts of groundwater flow that are determined by differences in water-level elevation, large permeability differences between regolith and bedrock, and important hydrologic differences between named geologic units. It has been commonly stated for 37 years, for example, that the Conasauga Group has fewer cavities and is less permeable than the Chickamauga Group. All of these assumptions and conclusions are faulty. The new concepts in this report may be controversial, but they explain the available data. Only the stormflow zone from land surface to a depth of 1-2 m has a permeability large enough to transport most groundwater to the streams. Calculations show that 90-95% of all groundwater flow is in the stormflow zone, 4-9% is in a few water-producing intervals below the water table, and about 1% occurs in other intervals. The available data also show that nearly all groundwater flows through enlarged openings such as macropores, fractures, and cavities, and that there are no significant differences between regolith and bedrock or between the Conasauga Group and the Chickamauga group. Flow paths apparently are much more complex than was previously assumed. Multiple paths connect any two points below the water table, and each flow path is more likely to be tortuous than linear. Hydraulic gradients are affected by this complexity and by changes in hydraulic potential on steep hillsides. Below the water table, a large difference in the head of two points generally does not indicate a large flow rate between these points. Groundwater storage in amounts above field capacity is apparently intergranular in only the stormflow and vadose zones. At deeper levels all effective porosity is in fractures. The subsurface hydrology of the ORNL area is also more favorable for the containment of radioactive wastes than has been indicated by previous reports. A relatively simple solution should be possible for the problem of radionuclide migration in groundwater. The key concepts for most remedial investigations may be hydrologic isolation of contaminated materials by stopping infiltration and lateral flows in the stormflow zone.

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108 pages

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  • Other Information: PBD: 1 Jan 1988

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  • Report No.: ORNL/TM-10969
  • Grant Number: AC05-00OR22725
  • DOI: 10.2172/814097 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 814097
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc740130

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

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Creation Date

  • January 1, 1988

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Oct. 18, 2015, 6:40 p.m.

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  • March 31, 2016, 12:48 p.m.

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Moore, G.K. Concepts of Groundwater Occurrence and Flow Near Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee, report, January 1, 1988; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc740130/: accessed April 25, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.