New web service on commercial limestone information available from KGS
More than half of the surface rocks in Kentucky are limestones, which can be used for building construction, transportation, agriculture, and industrial applications. In 2013, the latest year for which data are available, 85 Kentucky quarries produced more than 46 million tons of limestone. For almost 70 years, KGS geologists have been collecting samples of this important material from quarries, mines, outcrops, and roadcuts around the state to analyze them for their chemical makeup. KGS geologists also have characterized the geologic formations that produce stone and the specific kinds of rock at each location.
After about 5 years of digitizing this information, the Survey has unveiled a new Limestone and Dolomite Resources of Kentucky web service that makes the field notes, descriptions, measurements, and chemical analyses publicly available and searchable on a map displaying the locations of operations and other related localities. (Dolomite is a carbonate stone that occurs along with limestone and has certain desirable properties.)
“It became clear when I first began archiving these historical records that this was something that would be very useful to people and companies that need limestone information,” says KGS Associate Director Jerry Weisenfluh. “We think this is potentially going to be a very popular service.” A Kentucky limestone and dolomite map published by KGS in 2013 was so popular that it was downloaded from the KGS publications webpage 25,000 times within three months of publication.
“We haven’t developed a web service quite like this one before, where you can search for sites having certain chemical qualities and highlight them on a map,” says Doug Curl, head of the KGS Geologic Information Management Section. “But that’s the direction we wanted to go, drilling down into the data to give users tools to search for information they need.” People interested in specific properties and elements in limestone, such as high calcium-carbonate content or low silica content, can search for those chemical properties to find out where stone of that quality might be found in the state. That’s a typical kind of question KGS geologists are frequently asked.
Users of the new web service will find an information window providing background and instructions on how to use the site. An interactive map of the state includes icons for locations of quarries, mines, roadcuts, and coreholes. Locations where samples were analyzed for their chemical makeup are denoted with green dots. Clicking on one of the icons will bring up an additional window with the site name, photos (if available), types of limestone at the site, and links to scanned field notes and reports or publications about the location. Sites with chemical analyses are also linked to tables listing the results of the analyses. Users can also find reference numbers for more than 8,000 samples stored at the KGS Well Sample and Core Library, if they want to examine the core or sample itself.
“This online service is for people who want to see where limestone has been mined or is being mined and query those sites for chemistry that meets various criteria,” Weisenfluh says. “They can also look at historical field notes about the measurements made at those quarries.”
The work to preserve and digitize this limestone and dolomite resource data, including scanning field notebooks and compiling the chemistry database, was supported by the USGS National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program.
The service does not include information about past or current limestone production or about the current status of the operations, because changes such as quarry and mine ownership or name, and the opening or closing of a site are not reported to KGS. Aggregated production information is available from a website maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey, and up-to-date information about the operations may be found in the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s annual Aggregate Source Book.