There are 263 known or suspected onshore salt domes in the Texas-Louisiana-Mississippi-Alabama portion of the Gulf Coast geosyncline. The top of the salt in 148 of them is probably deeper than desirable for a waste repository site, and 79 of those that are shallow enough are probably unavailable for a site because of present use by industry for gas storage or production of oil, salt, or sulfur. In this report we have compiled the available geologic and hydrologic background data pertinent to the evaluation of the remaining 36 known or suspected salt domes as potential sites for waste storage. There are three parts to this compilations: 1) summaries of the geology and hydrology of the salt-dome province as a whole; 2) summaries of the physiography, climate, geology, and hydrology of each of the five salt-dome basins that occur within the province; and 3) an appendix of background data for each of the 36 potentially acceptable domes.
The distribution of salt domes in the province is genetically related to areas of relative subsidence that formed basins or depocenters within the Gulf Coast geosyncline. In some cases, as in northeast Texas and south Louisiana, the locations of individual domes or groups of domes are related to deep movement of salt along axial trends. The salt domes in the interior salt-dome subprovince are probably more structurally stable than those of the coastal subprovince because salt diapirism is inferred to have ceased around Miocene time in the interior but may still be active in parts of the coastal subprovince. Although the size and shape of many domes is unknown or can only be roughly approximated, each of the five basins in the province appears to contain potentially acceptable domes of adequate size for a repository. We recognize no pattern to the distribution of salt-dome size. Caprock thicknesses vary greatly within each salt-dome basin,and we recognize no pattern to the variations. Among the potentially acceptable domes, the depths to the top of the salt are generally greatest in the Mississippi salt-dome basin, where all tops are more than 1,500 feet deep. Intermediate depths of about 1,000 feet are common in the east Texas-south Louisiana salt-dome basin. Depths to salt tops in the north Louisiana and northeast Texas basins are variable but most are less than 1,000 feet.
Available drilling records are generally adequate to determine the number of wells drilled on or in the vicinity of individual domes and also the well locations. The numbers of wells vary widely within each salt-dome basin. More salt domes are currently available for use as repository sites in the interior subprovince than in the coastal subprovince, where the pressure for industrial use of domes is high. In the interior subprovince many of the potentially acceptable domes are located beneath hilly well-drained terrain that is not subject to flooding or other surface-water problems. Although topographic depressions occupied by shallow lakes, swamps, or 'salines' occur over several of the domes, they are generally flanked by topographically high ground where surface facilities could be sited without complications.A few of the potentially acceptable domes are located beneath floodplains where surface facilities might face hazards from flooding. In the coastal subprovince several of the potentially acceptable domes are located in relatively flat poorly drained terrain where surface flooding might constitute a potential hazard.
The availability of fresh to slightly saline ground water varies considerably within each salt-dome basin. We have outlined some of the factors that are responsible for the variations and have provided or referred to maps and geohydrologic cross sections that illustrate the general distribution of fresh to slightly saline water. The top of the salt in about half of the known potentially acceptable domes is below the regional base of the fresh to slightly saline ground-water system, but in a few of
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USGS Numbered Series
Geologic and hydrologic summary of salt domes in Gulf Coast region of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama