The NSS Bulletin - ISSN 1090-6924
Volume 44 Number 3: 84-89 - July 1982

A publication of the National Speleological Society

Ground Water Geochemistry of the Burnsville Cove Area, Virginia
Russell S. Harmon and John W. Hess


The chemical composition of 56 surface and groundwaters from the Burnsville Cove area suggests that solution of carbonate rock in the Sinking Creek drainage basin has largely occurred during sustained contact of the water with a CO2 reservoir of about 10-2.5 atm partial pressure. Ca2+ concentrations are generally less than 40 mg/l and, as a result, most groundwaters are greatly undersaturated with respect to calcite. The only waters found to be saturated with respect to calcite were seepage waters collected from active soda-straw stalactites in the Butler Cave-Sinking Creek Cave System. The data further suggest that: 1) a greater amount of carbonate solution occurs during times of high flow, when the Ca2+ gradient from input to spring is on the order of 10 mg/l, than during base flow periods, when the gradient is 1 to 2 mg/l; 2) that most carbonate solution by groundwater occurs very near the point of recharge; 3) little additional solution takes place during the remainder of subsurface flow, although the waters remain calcite undersaturated; and 4) spring flow includes both conduit and artesian components.

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