Summary and interpretation of dye-tracer tests to investigate the hydraulic connection of fractures at a ridge-and-valley-wall site near Fishtrap Lake, Pike County, Kentucky

Water-Resources Investigations Report 94-4189
Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement
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Abstract

Dye-tracer tests were done during 1985-92 to investigate the hydraulic connection between fractures in Pennsylvanian coal-bearing strata at a ridge-and-valley-wall site near Fishtrap Lake, Pike County, Ky. Fluorescent dye was injected into a core hole penetrating near-surface and mining-induced fractures near the crest of the ridge. The rate and direction of migration of dye in the subsurface were determined by measuring the relative concentration of dye in water samples collected from piezometers completed in conductive fracture zones and fractured coal beds at various stratigraphic horizons within the ridge. Dye-concentration data and water-level measurements for each piezometer were plotted as curves on dye-recovery hydrographs. The dye-recovery hydrographs were used to evaluate trends in the fluctuation of dye concentrations and hydraulic heads in order to identify geologic and hydrologic factors affecting the subsurface transport of dye.

The principal factors affecting the transport of dye in the subsurface hydrologic system were determined to be (1) the distribution, interconnection, and hydraulic properties of fractures; (2) hydraulic-head conditions in the near-fracture zone at the time of dye injection; and (3) subsequent short- and long-term fluctuations in recharge to the hydrologic system. In most of the dye-tracer tests, dye-recovery hydrographs are characterized by complex, multipeaked dye-concentration curves that are indicative of a splitting of dye flow as ground water moved through fractures. Intermittent dye pulses (distinct upward spikes in dye concentration) mark the arrivals of dye-labeled water to piezometers by way of discrete fracture-controlled flow paths that vary in length, complexity, and hydraulic conductivity. Dye injections made during relatively high- or increasinghead conditions resulted in rapid transport of dye (within several days or weeks) from near-surf ace fractures to piezometers. Injections made during relatively low- or decreasing-head conditions resulted in dye being trapped in hydraulically dead zones in water-depleted fractures. Residual dye was remobilized from storage and transported (over periods ranging from several months to about 2 years) by increased recharge to the hydrologic system. Subsequent fluctuations in hydraulic gradients, resulting from increases or decreases in recharge to the hydrologic system, acted to speed or slow the transport of dye along the fracture-controlled flow paths.

The dye-tracer tests also demonstrated that mining-related disturbances significantly altered the natural fracture-controlled flow paths of the hydrologic system over time. An abandoned underground mine and subsidence-related surface cracks extend to within 250 ft of the principal dye-injection core hole. Results from two of the dye-tracer tests at the site indicate that the annular seal in the core hole was breached by subsurface propagation of the mining-induced fractures. This propagation of fractures resulted in hydraulic short-circuiting between the dye-injection zone in the core hole and two lower piezometer zones, and a partial disruption of the hydraulic connection between the injection core hole and downgradient piezometers on the ridge crest and valley wall. In addition, injected dye was detected in piezometers monitoring a flooded part of the abandoned underground mine. Dye was apparently transported into the mine through a hydraulic connection between the injection core hole and subsidence-related fractures.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Summary and interpretation of dye-tracer tests to investigate the hydraulic connection of fractures at a ridge-and-valley-wall site near Fishtrap Lake, Pike County, Kentucky
Series title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number 94-4189
DOI 10.3133/wri944189
Year Published 1994
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Description Report: v, 83 p.; 1 Plate: 17.66 x 13.46 inches
Country United States
State Kentucky
County Pike County
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