Interaction of a Legacy Groundwater Contaminant Plume with the Little Wind River from 2015 Through 2017, Riverton Processing Site, Wyoming

David L. Naftz, Christopher C. Fuller, Robert L. Runkel, John Solder, W. Payton Gardner, Neil Terry, Martin A. Briggs, Terry M. Short, Daniel J. Cain, William L. Dam, Patrick A. Byrne, James R. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The Riverton Processing site was a uranium mill 4 kilometers southwest of Riverton, Wyoming, that prepared uranium ore for nuclear reactors and weapons from 1958 to 1963. The U.S. Department of Energy completed surface remediation of the uranium tailings in 1989; however, groundwater below and downgradient from the tailings site and nearby Little Wind River was not remediated. Beginning in 2010, a series of floods along the Little Wind River began to mobilize contaminants in the unsaturated zone, resulting in substantial increases of uranium and other contaminants of concern in monitoring wells completed inside the contaminant plume. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy started a series of university and Government agency retrospective and field investigations to understand the processes controlling contaminant increases in the groundwater plume. The goals of the field investigations described in this report were to (1) identify and quantify the contaminant flux and potential associated biological effects from groundwater associated with the legacy plume as it enters a perennial stream reach, and (2) assess chemical exposure and potential effects to biological receptors from the interaction of the contaminant plume and the river. Field investigations along the Little Wind River were completed by the U.S. Geological Survey during 2015–17 in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Legacy Management to characterize: (1) seepage areas and seepage rates; (2) pore-water and bed sediment chemistry and hyporheic exchange and reactive loss; and (3) exposure pathways and biological receptors. All data collected during the study are contained in two U.S. Geological Survey data releases, available at and A variety of tools and methods were used during the field characterizations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-66
Number of pages66
JournalUSGS Scientific Investigations Report
StatePublished - 2023


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