Hydrogeology and Hydrochemistry of the Falls City Uranium Mine Tailings Remedial Action Project, Karnes County, Texas

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Kreitler, Charles W.
Jackson, Timothy J.
Dickerson, Patricia Wood
Blount, Jonathan Gray

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Oxidized uranium ore deposits were discovered in the Deweesville sandstone (also referred to as the Stones Switch; Bunker and MacKallor [1973]) in the Falls City region in the 1950s. Uranium was mined and milled in the small community of Deweesville by Susquehanna-Western, Inc. (SWI) from April 1961 to August 1973. Tailings composed of sediment residue from the sulfuric acid milling process and residual sulfuric acid solutions were disposed of in six ponds on the outcrop of the Deweesville, within the mined-out uranium pits in the Deweesville, and on the outcrop of the Conquista, creating a set of large tailings impoundments (figs. 1.1 and 1.2). From 1978 to 1982 Solution Engineering, Inc. (SEI) conducted a secondary recovery of the remaining uranium in the tailings piles by in situ leaching. In 1984, the ponds on top of two of the tailings piles were spray evaporated and a clay cap was placed over the piles to prevent additional percolation of water through the piles and into the underlying aquifers. Acidic tailings solutions have been recharging the underlying aquifers since initial tailings disposal and may still be leaking into these aquifers.

Several hydrogeologic investigations have been conducted to assess whether there has been groundwater contamination from the tailings. Early studies were conducted by Turk, Kehle and Associates (1976), and Ford, Bacon & Davis Utah (1978, 1981). Each of these studies included only minor investigations of the hydrogeology and hydrochemistry of the site and, in general, underestimated the extent of contamination from the site. Investigations conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) from 1985 to 1991 have since revealed the true extent of contamination (U.S. Department of Energy, 1991).


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