The WIPP EM incorporates studies at three reservoirs on the Pecos River, which is the major perennial fresh water system closest to the WIPP that has extensive human usage.
The three reservoirs are:
- Brantley Lake, located approximately 40 miles northwest of the WIPP.
- Lake Carlsbad, located in Carlsbad and approximately 25 miles northwest of the WIPP.
- Red Bluff Lake, located approximately 30 miles southwest of the WIPP.
Surface and underground drainage from the area of the WIPP is to the southwest, and Red Bluff Lake is downstream of the area where drainage from the WIPP area enters the Pecos River.
Brantley Lake and Lake Carlsbad are both upstream of the WIPP area drainage, and thus would be unlikely to receive contaminants via drainage from the vicinity of the WIPP but could be contaminated by atmospheric deposition. In addition to their proximity to the WIPP, these three reservoirs were selected because of the potential exposure of human populations to contaminants through use by the local population for sport fishing and recreation, and through use of Pecos River water for agricultural irrigation in a large region of the river floodplain throughout New Mexico and Texas.
During 1996-97, pilot studies were conducted to identify shallow, mid-and deep-basin areas of each reservoir and to characterize the physical and chemical nature of the sediments at the various depths. The deep basin areas now serve as the focus for sediment sampling because radioactive contaminants (and other inorganic contaminants) are known to concentrate in zones featuring fine-grained sediments, which are highest in the deepest waters. The sediment sampling consists of collection of one sample from each of four randomly selected locations within the deep basins at each reservoir. Each sample analyzed is a composite of two to four grab samples taken from the top 5-10 cm of the sediment surface. Two samples of water (one at the surface and one approximately 0.5 to 1 m above the sediment bed) are also collected at one deep basin site at each reservoir. During 1997-1999, sediment and surface water samples were collected once during the spring, once in winter, and twice in the summer.
Because of the distance between the WIPP site and these reservoirs, the potential risk of direct contamination of the reservoirs by releases from the WIPP is relatively low compared to other media, and sampling is now conducted once annually in the summer.