In the Eastern Coal Field region of Kentucky, water is obtained from consolidated sedimentary rocks ranging in age from Devonian to Pennsylvanian and from unconsolidated sediments of Quaternary age. About 95 percent of the area is underlain by shale, sandstone, and coal of Pennsylvanian age. Principal factors governing the availability of water in the region are depth, topographic location, and the lithology of the aquifer penetrated. In general, the yield of the well increases as the depth increases. Wells drilled in topographic lows, such as valleys, are likely to yield more water than wells drilled on topographic highs, such as hills. Sand and gravel, present in thick beds in the alluvium along the Ohio River, form the most productive aquifer in the Eastern Coal Field. Of the consolidated rocks in the region sandstone strata are the best aquifers chiefly because joints, openings along bedding planes, and intergranular pore spaces are best developed in them. Shale also supplies water to many wells in the region, chiefly from joints and openings along bedding planes. Coal constitutes a very small part of the sedimentary section, but it yields water from fractures to many wells. Limestone yields water readily from solution cavities developed along joint and bedding-plane openings.
The availability of water in different parts of the region was determined chiefly by analyzing well data collected during the reconnaissance. The resulting water-availability maps, published as hydrologic investigations atlases (Price and others, 1961 a, b; Kilburn and others, 1961) were designed to be used in conjunction with this report. The maps were constructed by dividing the region into 5 physiographic areas, into 10 subareas based chiefly on lithologic facies, and, in the case of the Kanawha section, into 2 quality-of-water areas. The 5 physiographic areas are the Knobs, Mississippian Plateau, Cumberland Plateau section, Kanawha section, and Cumberland Mountain section.
The 10 subareas are as follows:
1. The Chattanooga shale. This black shale yields only enough water for a minimum domestic supply-100 to 500 gpd (gallons per day).
2. Mississippian-Devonian rocks exposed along Pine Mountain. These rocks consist of shale, limestone, and sandstone. The limestone yields water to springs, and faulted limestone and sandstone lying below drainage may yield several hundred gallons per minute to wells.
3. Mississippian rocks exposed along the western margin of the region. These rocks consist of thick limestone underlain by shale. The limestone yields enough water for a modern domestic supply (more than 500 gpd) , and discharges as much as 100 gpm (gallons per minute) to springs. The shale yields only enough water for a minimum domestic supply.
4. Subarea 1 of the Lee formation of Pennsylvanian age. The thin shaly rocks of this subarea generally yield only enough water for a minimum domestic supply.
5. Subarea 2 of the Lee formation of Pennsylvanian age. This subarea is predominantly underlain by massive sandstones; it generally yields enough water for a modern domestic supply, and in some places, enough water for small public and industrial supplies.
6. Subarea 1 of the Breathitt and Conemaugh formations of Pennsylvanian age. Rocks in this subarea contain more shale than sandstone. Wells in this subarea range from adequate for a minimum domestic supply to adequate for a modern domestic supply.
7. Subarea 2 of the Breathitt formation of Pennsylvanian age and undifferentiated post-Lee Pennsylvanian rocks. Wells in this subarea yield enough water for a modern domestic supply, and in many places, enough water for small public and industrial supplies.
8. Alluvium along the Ohio River. Mostly composed of glacial outwash sand and gravel, the alluvium is reported to yield as much as 360 gpm to wells.
9. Alluvium along the Big Sandy River and lower reaches of its Tug and Levisa Forks. Where consisting mostly of sand,
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Reconnaissance of ground-water resources in the Eastern Coal Field Region, Kentucky
Water Supply Paper
iv, 56 p. :ill., maps ;24 cm. + plates folded in pocket.