The Former Guterl Specialty Steel Corporation Site (Guterl Site) is located 32 kilometers (20 miles) northeast of Buffalo, New York, in Lockport, Niagara County, New York. Between 1948 and 1952, up to 15,875 metric tons (35 million pounds) of natural uranium metal (U) were processed at the Guterl Site. The resulting milling dust, shavings, thermal scale, and associated on-site land disposal contaminated both the facility and soils. These combined manufacturing and disposal processes promoted the development of a large-scale uranium plume in the groundwater underlying the site.
Site soils are anthropogenic fill and re-worked, glacially-derived sediments that vary between 0.6 meters (m) and 3 meters (2.0 to 10.0 feet [ft]) in thickness. These soils blanket a highly permeable weathered and fractured zone in the upper Lockport Dolostone bedrock. Aerial recharge through the thin soils flushes soluble constituents to groundwater, as exemplified by variations in specific conductivity and groundwater levels in the bedrock during precipitation events. Seasonally higher groundwater levels also promote contact with uranium contamination in deeper soil, thus complicating the transport characteristics of the site (e.g., oxidizing metallic uranium in the soil that increases leach rates).
The Seasonal Soil (SESOIL) compartment model was used to simulate a series of site soil conditions and predict the leaching of uranium to groundwater. The SESOIL input included physical soil characteristics, uranium profiles common in five soil areas, climate data, and an assumed oxidation-state (or chemical valence) for metallic uranium in the soil. The iterative modeling process evaluated site-specific variables to achieve a final deterministic set of input that was applied to the five soil areas. The leaching simulations estimated time-dependent influx rates for uranium, which were input to a numerical groundwater flow (MODFLOW) and transport (MT3DMS) model.
The combined modeling effort produced spatially and temporally variable transport conditions that were simulated over a 1,000-year period. The leaching models predicted a preliminary remediation goal (PRG) for uranium of 11 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) that is protective of groundwater. However, this low uranium PRG has field implementation concerns, so a modified direct-exposure PRG of 70 mg/kg was developed and evaluated in the flow and transport model. The primary difference in the PRGs is the longevity and location of the uranium plume, which will affect the remedial costs and potential stakeholder acceptance.
Bill Frederick has 24 years of hydrogeologic experience in porous and fractured rock terrains. He is a licensed professional geologist in Pennsylvania and graduate of SUNY Binghamton and Buffalo. Bill works for the US Army Corps of Engineers in Buffalo, where he performs groundwater characterization, geochemical analyses, numerical modeling, and remedial design for several Federal agencies and local stakeholders. He and his wife have three kids, who live in East Aurora.