Abstract - Impact of Surface Development on Underlying Cave Features

Davis, Marsha A., Alexander, Scott C. and Alexander, E. Calvin Jr. 1989. Impact of Surface Development on Underlying Cave Features. 1987 Cave Management Symposium. p. 10.


Any human activity that alters natural infiltration over a cave or which allows pollutants to enter the land surface can and will cause changes in the underlying cave's hydrogeology. We have used chemical analyses and fluorescent dye tracing techniques to demonstrate connections between surface sewage systems and parking lot runoff and the underlying caves at Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument.

Nitrates appear to be the most diagnostic chemical tracer of sewage effluent. Both Rhodamine WT and Fluorescein were used to trace, successfully, parking lot runoff into the underlying caves. The management of both caves are upgrading the existing sewer systems to control infiltration losses. Future development will consider the concentrated infiltration associated with runoff.

A major problem is that barometric wind analyses indicate that the currently mapped portion of each cave is only a small fraction of the total cave system. Simply avoiding construction over known passages is probably not a viable solution to the problem in the case of Wind and Jewel Caves.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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