Keller Shaft, Mammoth Cave National Park

Keller Shaft, Mammoth Cave National Park
Keller Shaft, Mammoth Cave National Park, Photo by Roger Brucker

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Appendices 1 - 4: Networking; Downloadable presentations; Sample demo; FOIA template.

Resources for cave and karst rapid response

1. Networking, obtaining resources, training and support

Organizations (to come)

Web sites

Information about caves and karst:
Karst Waters Institute
National Speleological Society
American Cave Conservation Association
Karst Information Portal
(Much more to come here)

2. Downloadable presentations for rapid response

            List of power points available from KEEP Inc. (to come)

3. Sample demonstration for use at a public hearing

 (If you must shorten the demonstration, use those parts that result in the most mess – broken plates and green water spilled. Onlookers may profess to be “shocked,” but your message will have been effectively and memorably delivered.)

A spokesperson for karst advocacy at a recent hearing for a state quarry permit near Mammoth Cave National Park, KY presented a variety of short demonstrations. Karst Environmental Education and Protection, Inc. (KarstEEP) opposed the issuance of this permit because the mitigation proposed by the quarry developer to prevent contamination of the Tier III outstanding underground waters of Mammoth Cave National Park would be inadequate, impractical, and ineffective. His demonstration went like this:

Presenter: “The principal proposed mitigation of contamination by sediments and petroleum products is two constructed sediment detention ponds whose flows are to be sampled twice per month. We will now demonstrate why this approach will fail to prevent contamination of the underground waters.”

(Presenter unfolds a plastic painters drop cloth to protect the floor against water that has been colored by green food coloring, and brings out the exhibits.)

Presenter: “Exhibit A is a portion of a map showing underground watercourses as dye traced by Quinlan, Ray, and Ewers (19Eight9).  It is the best informed guess about where the underground conduits are located.  This map shows a major subterranean stream forming in the Sinkhole Plain and its trunk passing directly beneath the proposed quarry property.  The stream emerges at Mill Hole and sinks after 400 feet, then emerges in Owl Cave/Cedar Sink in Mammoth Cave National Park, and finally rises at Turnhole Spring in Green River.

“Some or all of the proposed quarry and ponds are at risk of collapsing into this underground river, in the same way that Dishman Lane in Bowling Green, KY collapsed into State Trooper Cave River.  Blasting loosens subsurface rocks.  The risk of probable collapse into the Tier III underground river is too high to risk.”

Presenter: “Exhibit B is a dinner plate.  This plate represents limestone, which is quite strong in compression.  If I place the plate on the floor and lay a plank over it, I can stand on the plank and not break it” (demonstrates).  “No fear of collapse, right?  Now if I take the same plate and strike it with a hammer, it shatters” (demonstrates).  “The shock, comparable to quarry blasting, exceeds the yield strength of the plate.  The weakened and broken parts correspond to the roof of the large underground river shown on the map to cross under the quarry site. The point of this demonstration is that collapse failures of this kind have happened too often in karst regions without blasting.  Many caves have breakdown on the passage floors, which is a form of collapse.  An expert witness who says that caves seldom collapse is ignoring breakdown. With blasting, the risk of collapse into the underground Tier III river is too high.”

Presenter: “Exhibit C is a kitchen funnel.  Sediment ponds, farm ponds, and manmade lakes in the Sinkhole Plain karst are usually sinkholes.  Engineering textbooks show such sinkholes in cross-section as funnels that can be easily plugged with clay, rocks, or fill.  Assuming the plug remains, regional rainfall of 55-inches per year, often coming in downpours of 2- or 3-inches in a few hours, overwhelms karst ponds and lakes and washes the contents including bottom sediments over the spillway and over any rubber pond liner.  The front edge of the flood carries most of the contaminants.  We can demonstrate this by plugging this funnel and pouring in a deluge of water” (demonstrates).  “Notice how it overflows the pond. The point of the demonstration is that karst ponds seldom have the capacity to contain runoff water, which will overflow into the nearest sinkhole.”

Presenter: “Exhibit D is the same kitchen funnel. We use toilet tissue paper to block the bottom end to simulate a sinkhole plug.  We fill the funnel with water” (demonstrates).  “So far, so good: the water is contained.  But when the tissue weakens and gives way, the funnel drains out” (demonstrates).  “This demonstrates that karst ponds are ephemeral – they disappear without notice and empty their contents into the underground river.  The point of this demonstration is that not only will the quarry store fine sediments and petroleum spills in the ponds, but that at the loss of containment, the contaminants will flow underground quickly.  A 4000 gallon spill of diesel fuel only 2.3 miles from this quarry site disappeared underground before the HAZMAT crew arrived. There are NO BMPs (Best Management Practice) for ponds in karst regions in Kentucky.  The Heartland Golf Course Lake in Bowling Green is a recent example of sudden loss of containment.

Presenter: “Exhibit E is a kitchen colander.  Contrary to many engineering text books, sinkholes in the Mammoth Cave Region DO NOT resemble funnels in cross-section.  They resemble a colander with holes downward and also laterally along rock bedding.  In other words, most sinkholes cannot be plugged permanently.  Every farmer hereabouts knows this.  We will demonstrate how sinkholes drain by pouring water into this colander” (demonstrates).  “Notice how it pours out all over everything.  It might be possible to plug a few holes in the bottom, but you can see that the contents will drain underground.  The point of this demonstration is that no karst pond can be relied upon to hold water, let alone retain contaminants such as sediments and petroleum products.

“A second point of this demonstration is how would you sample the outflow twice a month?  As you can see, most of the time there will be no outflow; it will be “done-gone!”  Remember, most of the contaminants are carried on the front end of a flood.  Can anyone believe that quarry personnel will sample when it’s pouring rain outside?”

Presenter: “Exhibit F is a large sponge.  This represents the surface of the karst land, the weathered rock fragments, the clay particles, sand, and organic matter.  We will pour some dye onto the sponge surface” (demonstrates). “The dye represents a contaminant, such as oil.  We will then pour water on the sponge and attempt to wash off the dye” (demonstrates).  “Notice that the dye disperses throughout the sponge.  Every time we pour another batch of water to clean the sponge, we get more contaminant out. 

“Why not squeeze the sponge?” (threatens to demonstrate.)  “We can’t do that with karst land.  Instead, the contaminant that remains trapped can be remobilized by subsequent downpours.  Thus, the risk of contamination is a long-range hazard, not something that can be cleaned up.  Once again, the 4000 gallon diesel fuel spill on nearby I-65 warns us that contamination of karst can be a ticking bomb that can pollute wells and the underground river for months and years.  In Hidden River Cave, Horse Cave, KY, periodic floods uncover and re-suspend the toxic contaminants.

“In conclusion, we have been criticized for demonstrating these truths in dramatic ways.  If you have been offended, I apologize.  But what we have demonstrated are scientific truths and actual risks that this quarry cannot and will not be able to prevent or avoid contamination of the Tier III waters of Mammoth Cave National Park.

“We ask that the permit for this quarry be withdrawn.”

(Quinlan, James F. and Joseph A. Ray. 1989. Groundwater Basins in the Mammoth Cave Region, Kentucky. Occasional publication no. 2, Friends of the Karst, Mammoth Cave, KY.)

 4. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) template letter (link to come)

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