Karst subsidence is land subsidence that is caused by cavities or voids in the underlying bedrock which collapse or from soil filling them in from above resulting in surface subsidence. Under normal circumstances, the voids or cavities were created by the flow of groundwater in fractures in soluble bedrock over a great deal of time. The most significant land subsidence effects occur over voids which have been solutioned in limestone bedrock but also result in other soluble rocks such as dolomite, gypsum, and halite. The most typical land subsidence results from groundwater draining downward into these solution voids carrying soil particles with it. This results in the ground settlement in the form of a sinkhole to a more gradual depression on the ground surface. Therefore, when downward drainage of groundwater is caused into open bedrock voids, the potential for subsidence results. Some more common triggers are: unlined surfaced drainage trenches, pumping of water wells, quarry pit dewatering and retention/detention ponds.
Figures 1 and 2 are examples of this.
FIGURE 1: SINKHOLE CAUSED BY DOWNWARD DRAINAGE FROM DEWATERING OF NEARBY QUARRY PIT
FIGURE 2: IRREGULAR DEPRESSION WHICH FORMED FROM DOWNWARD SEEPAGE OF WATER STORED IN A RETENTION POND
Karst subsidence are typically in the form of sinkhole to bowl-shaped depressions. They can occur unexpectedly and fairly abruptly and can cause significant damage. Because of their erratic geologic nature, karst it is often difficult to quantify the subsidence risk and associated damage potential. Therefore, the expert which is hired should be well versed in all the subsidence engineering aspects of interest. More common questions the karst subsidence expert will be asked to answer are: • What is the chance that there will be subsidence in the future? • If there is a subsidence(s), how severe will it be? • If there is subsidence, how much damage can we expect? • What are my options to reduce the risk of subsidence in the future? • A sinkhole has appeared, what do I do? • Is there any way to virtually eliminate the risk of subsidence in the future? Subsidence investigations in karst terrain are most commonly related to new construction or encountering unanticipated subsidence or other karst features which disrupt construction progress, insurance claims, or subsidence damage. Given the context of the investigation and the amount of risk which may be involved should determine the level of expertise that the subsidence engineer should have. If tort litigation is involved the karst subsidence expert should also be competent in this area. Also, with greater knowledge and experience in karst subsidence problems, the more cost effective the solution.