Description: The mill tailings site at Canonsburg, Pennsylvania is the first mill site to receive remedial action under the Department of Energy's Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Program. Part of this remedial action will require excavating the 53,500 m/sup 3/ (70,000 yd/sup 3/) of tailings on the site having a specific activity exceeding 100 pCi/g, and encapsulating these contaminated tailings in a clay-lined cell. As part of the remedial action effort, Pacific Northwest Laboratory has been studying the interactions of tailings and tailings leachate with locally occurring clays proposed for liner materials. These studies include physical and chemical characterization of amended and unamended local clays, chemical characterization of the tailings, column studies of tailings leached with deionized water, and column studies of clays contacted with tailings solutions to determine the attenuation properties of the proposed liner materials. Column studies of tailings leached with deionized water indicated that the Canonsburg tailings could represent a source of soluble radium-226 and uranium-238, several trace metals, cations, and the anions SO/sub 4/, NO/sub 3/, and Cl. Of these soluble contaminants, uranium-238, radium-226, the trace metals As and Mo, and the anions F and SO/sub 4/ were present at levels exceeding maximum concentration levels in the tailings leaching column effluents. However, local clays, both in amended and unamended form were effective in attenuating contaminant migration. The soil amendments tested failed to increase radium attenuation. The tailings leaching studies indicated that the tailings will produce leachates of neutral pH and relatively low contaminant levels for at least 200 years. We believe that compacting the tailings within the encapsulation cell will help to reduce leaching of contaminants from the liner system, since very low permeabilities (<10/sup -8/ cm/s) were observed for even slightly compacted tailings materials.
Date: April 1, 1984
Creator: Dodson, M.E.; Gee, G.W. & Serne, R.J.
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Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department