Southeastern Section–55th Annual Meeting (23–24 March 2006)

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 3:40 PM


BENFIELD, Robert Charles, 3131 Raccoon Valley Road, Powell, TN 37849,

Hydrogeologic study of springs in East Tennessee has for the most part been rare and limited. The karst aquifers found in folded and faulted Cambrian and Ordovician rocks are complex on small and large scales. Studies that would define basic quantities to include base level flow, basin delineation, variability of water chemistry, and environmental impacts is lacking. Water supplies for human populations have been the focus of the more detailed investigations. Surprisingly only one county has had significant tracing studies conducted by more than one scientist, and detailed chemical studies conducted on more than one occasion for a water supply spring. This area is rich with karst features and has many groundwater users. At this time rapid land use changes combined with poor regulatory systems provide a sad opportunity to damage valuable and sensitive systems. There is also an opportunity to sound the alarm to scientific community to respond by taking the challenge to solve the hard problems of karst hydrogolgy in East Tennessee.

This talk summarizes insight gained by work mostly in Carter and Johnson Counties performed by this author and colleagues interested in groundwater in Tennessee. In these counties there are Rome Formation springs that have very low variability which serve as water supplies for thousands of customers. Ironically the Rome Formation is not typically recognized as a significant aquifer. This is due to errors derived from a lack of having a usable hydrogeologic framework to understand typical and non-typical aquifers specific to the karst in this region. Simple studies have shown it is possible to obtain an elementary framework to present hypotheses about the storage and flow in different lithologies and structural settings.

New efforts to instruct methods of karst investigations are coming to Tennessee. In particular the Rockhouse Cave karst field laboratory near East Tennessee State University will continue to grow, disseminate karst understanding, and evolve a usable framework that can be used on a regional scale. The answers to the hard problems has only started in Tennessee's groundwater setting and the best insight comes from ones still with so many unanswered questions.