The USGS has been studying the area's water resources since the INL was established in 1949. Initially, our studies focused on quantifying the volume of water in the eastern Snake River Plain aquifer and determining if the water quality was adequate for industrial use. As concerns mounted about the presence of radioactive and chemical wastes in the eastern Snake River Plain aquifer, we turned our attention to understanding the extent and movement of contamination in the area’s vital groundwater.
USGS technician sampling for
dissolved gases, photo by USGS
In cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy, we currently monitor groundwater and surface-water quality as well as streamflow at seven surface water sites. Stage information at Mackay Reservoir is also available through other funding partners. Water samples are collected and analyzed for selected common ions, trace elements, nutrients, radiochemical constituents, and organic compounds. Samples are analyzed by the Radiological and Environmental Sciences Laboratory and the USGS National Water Quality Laboratory.
Multilevel monitoring systems
Since 2005, we've been collecting samples from eight monitoring wells that are equipped with multilevel Westbay™ systems. These wells are completed in the upper 350 to 700 feet of the eastern Snake River Plain aquifer. The multilevel systems include four to seven sampling ports that are isolated by permanent packers. This lets our scientists collect unmixed water samples from discrete levels, or zones, of the aquifer. Samples are collected and analyzed from each zone for selected common ions, trace elements, nutrients, radiochemical constituents, and stable isotopes.
Get the latest multilevel monitoring report >
Purging well with generator, photo by USGS
Naval Reactors Facility groundwater monitoring
Since 1989, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Naval Reactors Laboratory Field Office, Idaho Branch Office, we've operated a continuing groundwater quality sampling program near the Naval Reactors Facility (NRF). This sampling program provides the NRF staff with water-chemistry data to evaluate the effect of NRF activities on the water quality of the eastern Snake River Plain aquifer.
Water samples are collected from 11 wells semi-annually and analyzed for selected common ions, trace metals, nutrients, radiochemical constituents, and organic compounds. Samples are analyzed by TestAmerica Laboratories and the Brigham Young University Laboratory of Isotope Geochemistry. Data collected from 1989 through 2000 can be found in USGS reports, and for the entire sample program can be found in the Web-accessible USGS National Water Information System (NWIS Web).