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Open-File Report 2009-1020

In cooperation with the Bureau of Indian Affairs

Geochemical Analyses of Rock, Sediment, and Water from the Region In and Around the Tuba City Landfill, Tuba City, Arizona

By Raymond H. Johnson and Laurie Wirt


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The Tuba City Landfill (TCL) started as an unregulated waste disposal site in the 1940s and was administratively closed in 1997. Since the TCL closure, radionuclides have been detected in the shallow ground water. In 2006, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) contracted with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to better understand the source of radionuclides in the ground water at the TCL compared to the surrounding region. This report summarizes those data and presents interpretations that focus on the geochemistry in the rocks and water from the Tuba City region.

The TCL is sited on Navajo Sandstone above the contact with the Kayenta Formation. These formations are not rich in uranium but generally are below average crustal abundance values for uranium. Uranium ores in the area were mined nearby in the Chinle Formation and processed at the Rare Metals mill (RMM). Regional samples of rock, sediment, leachates, and water were collected in and around the TCL site and analyzed for major and minor elements, 18O, 2H, 3H, 13C, 14C,34S, 87Sr, and 234U/238U, as appropriate. Results of whole rock and sediment samples, along with leachates, suggest the Chinle Formation is a major source of uranium and other trace elements in the area. Regional water samples indicate that some of the wells within the TCL site have geochemical signatures that are different from the regional springs and surface water. The geochemistry from these TCL wells is most similar to leachates from the Chinle Formation rocks and sediments. Isotope samples do not uniquely identify TCL-derived waters, but they do provide a useful indicator for shallow compared to deep ground-water flow paths and general rock/water interaction times. Information in this report provides a comparison between the geochemistry within the TCL and in the region as a whole.

First posted February 9, 2009

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Suggested citation:

Johnson, R.H., and Wirt, L., 2009, Geochemical analyses of rock, sediment, and water from the region in and around the Tuba City Landfill, Tuba City, Arizona: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009–1020, 44 p.

Pamphlet Contents



Regional Hydrogeologic Setting

Analytical Methods

Results and Discussion

Summary and Conclusions


References Cited

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