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Rick Dinicola,
Associate Director, WA Water Science Center,
934 Broadway,
Suite 300
Tacoma, WA 98402

(253) 552-1603
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Mount Rainier National Park

Project Summaries

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PN377 - Petroleum in Soil and Ground Water at Longmire, WA, Mount Rainier National Park - Completed FY1994

Problem - Longmire, located near the southwest corner of Mount Rainier National Park, is the site of park administrative and concessionaire offices, maintenance and visitor facilities, and employee housing. Many of the approximately 2 million visitors to the park each year stop to utilize the facilities at Longmire during their visit. In 1989, during the course of the removal of an underground waste-oil storage tank near a vehicle and equipment service garage in the maintenance area, soil surrounding the tank was found to be contaminated with an unspecified petroleum product. The tank itself appeared to be in good condition--the only apparent defect was an improperly installed access hole at the top of the tank. Further investigation by the National Park Service consisted of digging five trenches up to 22 feet deep and collecting soil samples for petroleum hydrocarbon analyses. A petroleum product was found at least 120 feet to the northwest of the tank, in a plume estimated to be no more than 50 feet wide. Although the soil surrounding the waste-oil storage tank appears to contain waste oil from the garage, the product found in the trenches smelled of fuel or diesel oil. There are numerous underground fuel-oil storage tanks in the Longmire area--two are within 40 feet of the waste-oil storage tank site. The National Park Service is also concerned that the petroleum product has reached, or may reach, the water table and that the quality of ground and surface water in the area has been or will be adversely affected.

Objectives - The objectives of this study are to (1) identify the petroleum product(s) found in the soil, (2) determine the likely source(s) of the product(s), (3) determine the approximate extent of the migration of the product in the soil above the water table, (4) determine the depth to the water table and the direction of ground-water flow, and (5) determine if the product has reached the water table and, if so, the approximate areal extent and the relative magnitude of ground-water contamination.

Approach - Data necessary for attaining the above objectives will be obtained from up to five monitoring wells that will be installed in the maintenance area. The USGS will provide well specifications to the Park Service, monitor well drilling, take soil samples during drilling, and monitor the installation of the well casing and well screen. The petroleum product will be identified by comparing results of gas chromatograph/flame ionization detector (GC/FID) scans of waste oil and fuel and(or) diesel oil with GC/FID scans of soil samples (collected by split spoon if possible), and free product if found in wells. The altitude of the water table will be determined by measuring the distance to the water table from a reference point on the well. Water levels will be measured once per month for one year. The direction of ground-water flow will be determined from contour maps of water-table altitudes and the assumption that the general direction of flow is normal to the contour lines. The analysis of ground-water samples by GC/FID scan will be used to determine if the petroleum product has reached the water table.

WA295 - Reconnaissance Study of Possible Effects of Acidic Precipitation on Lakes in Mount Rainier National Park - Completed FY1985

Problem - The occurrence of acidic lakes is well documented in the Northeastern United States (US), Norway, Sweden, Ontario, and the California Sierra-Nevada. Now there is reason to suspect that many of Washington's most beautiful and pristine lakes, situated at high altitude along the crest of the Cascade Range, are also becoming acidic from precipitation-carrying pollutants from the Puget Sound lowlands. Two major sulfur-dioxide-emitting facilities are located within 50-75 miles of Mount Rainier National Park. The National Park Service would like early and continued assessment of this potentially serious problem in order to determine the susceptibility of and damage to lakes in the park with respect to acidic precipitation.

Objectives -

  1. Measure those chemical constituents that could indicate effects of acidic precipitation in a selected number of lakes in Mount Rainier National Park,
  2. Determine the capacity of each study lake to buffer inputs of acidic precipitation,
  3. Establish a base of chemical data to which data collected in future assessments of lake conditions can be compared, and
  4. Make a conditional appraisal as to whether the study lakes have been affected by acidic precipitation.

Approach - Water samples will be collected once from the center of each of 13 lakes at various altitudes and in various geologic terranes. Vertical profiles of temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, and specific conductance will be completed at that time. Assessments of the capacity of each lake to buffer acidic precipitation will be based on the chemistry of the lake water and geologic and soil characteristics of the lake drainage basin. Data will be plotted on graphic models proposed by Almer and others (1978) and Henrockson (1979). Lakes with a high potential for future acidification will be identified by considering the chemical compositions of their waters as well as the factors utilized in selecting them as study lakes.

WA285 - Test Drilling at Sunrise, Mount Rainier National Park - Completed FY1983

Problem - The drinking water at the Sunrise Visitor Center in Mount Rainier National Park is currently piped from nearby Frozen Lake. The lake water has recently become contaminated, however, possibly as a result of heavy hiker traffic in the immediate area, and will hereafter need to be chemically treated in order to make is safe to drink. As an alternative to treatment of this surface-water source, the National Park Service (NPS) is investigating the possibility of shifting to a ground-water source that would supply at least one gallon per minute.

Objectives - The National Park Service has asked the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to determine if shifting from a surface-water to a ground-water source is hydrologically feasible. The USGS needs to locate a ground-water supply that would satisfy the following location criteria: (1) adjacent to or within easy access of a road; (2) upgrading of potential sources of contamination; and (3) as close as possible to the existing power-house.

Approach - The USGS will perform a field reconnaissance of potential well sites, install an observation well, monitor the aquifer test performed by the drillers, and collect and submit water samples for chemical analysis. With this information the USGS will prepare a geohydrologic cross-section of the production well; describe aquifer-test methods, results, and interpretations; discuss short- and long-term effects of pumping 1500 gpd; discuss the results of the chemical analyses as they apply to the suitability of the water as a drinking-water supply; and present a report to the National Park Service by December 1, 1982.

WA263 - Mount Rainier Eruption-Hazard Investigations: Rainfall-Runoff Flood Discharge Models - Completed FY1982

Problem - In view of geologic history and the 1980 eruption of St. Helens near-future eruption of one or more active volcanoes in the western United States is possible. Mt. Rainier will be studied because of its volcanic history and proximity to populated areas; three major river basins drain glaciers on slopes where lahars have previously originated. Once a lahar occurs deposits of mud, gravel and other materials are susceptible to erosion from subsequent water flows. Also, downstream (ds) reaches are susceptible to additional deposition. Planners need to be aware of the possible results of this process. Because water's capacity to transport and deposit is related to discharge, it is important to determine high-flow magnitudes. Physical parameter Hydrometeorological (HM) models are appropriate for this type of evaluation.

Objectives - To determine for each of the three major river basins the after affect on flood volumes and peak discharges that a volcanic event on Mt. Rainier might cause, and for an assumed worst-case after-effect to estimate the changes that might occur in the post-event river valleys when subjected to those volumes and discharges.

Approach - The basin changes produced by a volcanic event are (1) basin configuration, (2) ground cover and surface storage, and (3) alterations in neighboring meteorology (precipitation). Standard, existing rainfall-runoff models will be used to determine the effect of these changes. These basin models will be calibrated and verified with existing runoff and rainfall data. The Corps of Engineers HEC-6 model will be operated to estimate changes that might occur in culturally developed parts of the post-event river valleys.

WA265 - Mount Rainier Eruption-Hazard Investigations: Pre-eruption Aerial Photography - Completed FY1982

Problem - In view of geologic history and the 1980 eruption of St. Helens near-future eruption of one or more active volcanoes in the western United States is possible. Mt. Rainier will be studied because of its volcanic history and proximity to populated areas. One of the major difficulties in studies of lahars resulting from the St. Helens eruptions was a dearth of pre-event topo information accurate enough for detailed evaluation, particularly in upstream reaches. If low altitude aerial photography had been available prior to the eruption, the magnitude of the lahars could have been evaluated more accurately and rapidly. Such information is not presently available for Mt. Rainier.

Objectives - To obtain, catalog, and maintain a file of geodetic control, negatives, and black and white prints of aerial photography of such scale and quality as to be usable for photogrammetric interpretation of topographic, geomorphic, hydraulic, and cultural features along those rivers where lahars might likely impact life or property or where scientific research might be conducted.

Approach - The aerial photographs and negatives required will come from three sources: (1) transfer from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) files of the Federal Emergency Management Agency-Flood Insurance Studies (FEMA-FIS), (2) purchase from other agencies or private companies for streams or reaches covered under FEMA-FIS program, and (3) purchase of new photography. For the purpose of this study previous photography with 6 inches camera at altitudes of 6000 feet or less will be acceptable; new photography will be at altitudes of 4800 feet with a 6 inches camera. Lists of all available geodetic control including data from the National Mapping Division (NMD), private firms, and state agencies will be solicited but no new control will be established unless a need for photogrammetry becomes imminent.

WA267 - Water Quality on Mount Rainier - Completed FY1982

Problem - The eruption of Mount St. Helens greatly altered the hydrologic environment in areas affected by the blast, debris deposits, ash fallout, and mudflows. Although the analysis of water samples from the impacted areas allowed for an areal assessment of the changes and documented the recovery efforts, impact assessment was difficult because of a lack of pre-eruption data. Because of Mount Rainier's recent volcanic activity and proximity to highly populated/industrialized areas, this area has been chosen for the collection of baseline water-quality data.

Objectives -

  1. To determine on an areal basis the chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of lakes and streams in the vicinity of Rainier;
  2. Develop a basic monitoring network from these sites;
  3. Determine the ground-water chemistry in the valleys surrounding Rainier which have a high probability of being impacted by a major volcanic eruption;
  4. Sample four or fivestreams and several lakes at two depths for the determination of legionella; and
  5. Locate several hot and cold springs on Rainier at which monitoring might give insight to temporal changes within the mountain.

Approach - Sixteen stream-sampling sites have been selected for sampling. Six lakes will be sampled once. After considering the data collected at the above streams, six streams representative of the hydrologic and geologic drainages of the area will be selected for continued sampling on a quarterly basis. About 20 wells will be sampled in the river valleys down-gradient from Rainier which have high probability of being severely impacted in the event of a major eruption.

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