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WKU, partners conduct advanced groundwater monitoring at museum sinkhole

Since a catastrophic sinkhole opened up Feb. 12 at the National Corvette Museum (NCM) and swallowed eight rare Corvettes, a diverse team of professionals has been working together with the NCM, led by Scott, Murphy, & Daniel, LLC Construction, to assess and remediate the collapse.

WKU graduate student Dan Nedvidek sets up the YSI EXO II sonde for deployment near the National Corvette Museum.

WKU graduate student Dan Nedvidek sets up the YSI EXO II sonde for deployment near the National Corvette Museum.

As part of this effort, WKU and project partners are collecting data to research the various environmental factors contributing to the cause and evolution of the sinkhole, as well as monitoring the area during the remediation. These types of collapse features are common in karst regions, like southcentral Kentucky, where water flows underground and forms caves and voids as it dissolves away the bedrock.

Since water flowing underground is part of the process of sinkhole development over geologic time, and often difficult to research since it exists underground, a method to monitor stormwater and groundwater in karst regions that can capture high-resolution data about water movement is necessary.

Recently, YSI Incorporated designed a new, submersible water monitoring sonde, the EXO II, which is capable of capturing and logging high-resolution (every 10 minutes in this case), continuous data for several parameters, including water depth, pH, temperature, specific conductivity, turbidity, dissolved oxygen and others. This logger provides everything from Bluetooth accessibility to real-time monitoring capabilities with additional peripheral devices that are available, and can be used in wells, streams, or any other water monitoring location.

WKU graduate student Dan Nedvidek installs the EXO II sonde by the NCM Skydome.

WKU graduate student Dan Nedvidek installs the EXO II sonde by the NCM Skydome.

Through a partnership between WKU’s Center for Water Resource Studies (WKU CWRS), Fondriest Environmental, YSI Incorporated, the City of Bowling Green Public Works Department and the National Corvette Museum, one of these EXO II sondes outfitted with multiple water parameter probes was loaned to WKU CWRS for use at the NCM sinkhole site. The sonde is being used to monitor water in an adjacent pond area that serves to collect runoff and exists as a perched water feature, which can provide information as work continues of any changes in the water from the drilling process and storms that could pose a threat to the remediation process. This monitoring provides an additional measure of safety and data collection to help understand the dynamics of the sinkhole and its natural formation processes.

The data collected through this monitoring project will support efforts by DDS Engineering, Hayward Baker Incorporated, EnSafe, Scott, Murphy & Daniel, LLC, and other project partners in their collective work to remediate the sinkhole. It will simultaneously provide invaluable scientific information to WKU CWRS’s research on sinkhole processes and karst landscape evolution.

Dr. Jason Polk, left, (director of WKU Center for Water Resource Studies) and Tim Slattery (hydrologist for Bowling Green Public Works) create a stilling well in which the logger will be installed.

Dr. Jason Polk, left, (director of WKU Center for Water Resource Studies) and Tim Slattery (hydrologist for Bowling Green Public Works) create a stilling well in which the logger will be installed.

Dr. Jason Polk, director of WKU CWRS, and graduate student Dan Nedvidek are using these sondes in other locations in the city and elsewhere to monitor stormwater runoff and measure water quality and other parameters related to karst hydrology. Collectively, these data provide a new, advanced method by which the study of karst processes and hydrogeology can be studied to inform our understanding of groundwater and associated karst features, like sinkholes.

“Partnerships like this one with Fondriest and YSI are the essence of collaborative scientific research, and allow us the capabilities to collect data and quickly put together information to inform how to move forward in situations like this one,” Dr. Polk said. “It’s a great benefit to be able to use new, advanced equipment that will lead the way for future research in this field and others.”

Special thanks to Paul Nieberding (Fondriest Environmental) and Brandon Smith (YSI Incorporated) for their assistance in making this project possible.

Contact: Dr. Jason Polk, jason.polk@wku.edu, (270) 745-5015, or @ProfJasonPolk on Twitter.

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