Gypsum is a highly soluble rock and is dissolved readily to form caves, sinkholes, disappearing streams, and other karst features that typically are also present in limestones and dolomites. Gypsum karst is widespread in the USA and has caused problems at several sites where dams were built, or where dam construction was considered. Gypsum karst is present (at least locally) in most areas where gypsum crops out, or is less than 30-60 m below the land surface. These karst features can compromise on the ability of a dam to hold water in a reservoir, and can even cause collapse of a dam. Gypsum karst in the abutments or foundation of a dam can allow water to pass through, around, or under a dam, and solution channels can enlarge quickly, once water starts flowing through such a karst system. The common procedure for controlling gypsum karst beneath the dam is a deep cut-off trench, backfilled with impermeable material, or a close-spaced grout curtain that hopefully will fill all cavities. In Oklahoma, the proposed Upper Mangum Dam was abandoned before construction, because of extensive gypsum karst in the abutments and impoundment area. Catastrophic failure of the Quail Creek Dike in southwest Utah in 1989 was due to flow of water through an undetected karstified gypsum unit beneath the earth-fill embankment. The dike was rebuilt, at a cost of US $12 million, with construction of a cut-off trench 600 m long and 25 m deep. Other dams in the USA with severe gypsum-karst leakage problems in recent years are Horsetooth and Carter Lake Dams, in Colorado, and Anchor Dam, in Wyoming. ?? 2007 Springer-Verlag.
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Gypsum-karst problems in constructing dams in the USA