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Northern New Jersey Radionuclides

Project Title: Northern New Jersey Radionuclides
Project Number: LJ00CXB
Project Chief:
Project Start Date: 15-FEB-2007
Project End Date: 30-SEP-2011

Project Objectives

  1. To determine U occurrence in northern New Jersey fractured-rock aquifers where high gross alpha-particle activities are known to occur
  2. To determine the amount of co-occurrence of naturally occurring U and As in water in the aquifers in northern NJ;
  3. To propose refinements to methods (numerical rating models or contingency tables) to predict the vulnerability of water from wells to contamination by natural U based on measured chemical parameters (pH, redox potential (Eh), iron, alkalinity, or others);
  4. To characterize U isotope ratios and identify aquifer regions where short lived radionuclides are contributing to gross alpha particle activity, by computing the difference between short-term gross alpha-particle activity and total U isotope activity

Statement of Problem

Elevated gross alpha-particle activity in groundwater has recently been documented from scattered areas in northern New Jersey. Initial data compilations indicate most of this alpha-particle activity is attributable to long-lived isotopes of U, and to a lesser extent, the long-lived progeny, Ra-226. (Alpha-emitting Ra-224 may be present, but concentrations have not been determined.) Because remediation options are widely different for U and Ra it is crucial to determine what portion of the alpha activity is from U and from Ra to assess the best treatment option.

Strategy and Approach

The project will consist of three phases to be completed cooperatively between the USGS and NJDEP. These phases are: 1) existing data review to identify high gross-alpha areas, 2) sampling and lab analysis in selected areas, and 3) data assessment and analysis of data gaps. The approach provides environmental occurrence information for further evaluation to propose refinements to methods to predict the vulnerability of water from wells to contamination by natural U.

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