Dissolution of Bedded Rock Salt: A Seismic Profile across the Active Eastern Margin of the Hutchinson Salt Member, Central Kansas


Since late Tertiary, bedded rock salt of the Permian Hutchinson Salt Member has been dissolved more-or-less continuously along its active eastern margin in central Kansas as a result of sustained contact with unconfined, undersaturated groundwater. The associated westward migration of the eastern margin has resulted in surface subsidence and the contemporaneous sedimentation of predominantly valley-filling Quarternary alluvium. In places, these alluvium deposits extend more than 25 km to the east of the present-day edge of the main body of contiguous rock salt. The margin could have receded this distance during the past several million years. From an environmental perspective, the continued leaching of the Hutchinson Salt is a major concern. This predominantly natural dissolution occurs in a broad zone across the central part of the State and adversely affects groundwater and surface-water quality as nonpoint source pollution. Significant surface subsidence occurs as well. Most of these subsidence features have formed gradually; others developed in a more catastrophic manner. The latter in particular pose real threats to roadways, railways, and buried oil and gas pipelines. In an effort to further clarify the process of natural salt dissolution in central Kansas and with the long-term goal of mitigating the adverse environmental affects of such leaching, the Kansas Geological Survey acquired a 4-km seismic profile across the eastern margin of the Hutchinson Salt in the Punkin Center area of central Kansas. The interpretation of these seismic data (and supporting surficial and borehole geologic control) is consistent with several hypotheses regarding the process and mechanisms of dissolution. More specifically these data support the theses that: 1. (1) Dissolution along the active eastern margin of the Hutchinson Salt Member was initiated during late Tertiary. Leaching has resulted in the steady westward migration of the eastern margin, surface subsidence, and the contemporaneous deposition of predominantly valley-filling Quarternary alluvium. 2. (2) Along the active eastern margin, the rock salt has been leached vertically from the top down, and horizontally along the uppermost remnant bedded soluble layer(s). As a result, the eastern margin thickens gradually (up to 90 m) and in a stepwise manner from east to west for distances on the order 5-15 km. 3. (3) In places, the Hutchinson Salt Member has been leached locally along NNE-trending paleoshear zones situated to the west of the present-day edge of the main body of contiguous rock salt. Leaching at these sites initiated when the main dissolution front impinged upon preexisting shear zones.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Groundwater; Hydrogeology; Leaching; Permian; Pollution; Quaternary; Wellington Formation; Dissolution; Environmental Impact; Groundwater Pollution; Hydrology; Rock Mechanics; Sedimentation; Subsidence; Bedded Rock Salt; Permian Hutchinson Salt Member, Kansas

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Article - Journal

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© 1994 Elsevier Limited, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jun 1994