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Karst as Geologic Hazard

A geologic hazard is a naturally occurring geologic condition that may result in property damage or is a threat to the safety of people. Many hazards to man-made structures can be associated with the type of bedrock, the presence of faults, and other earth processes that occur in Kentucky. Earthquakes get the most press coverage and are the most notorious. Annually, landslides, shrink-swell soils, and flooding cause more damage than earthquakes in Kentucky because they happen more often. Karst hazards cause less damage than earthquakes or landslides, perhaps $500,000 to $2,000,000 of economic loss annually, but can still have devastating effect on individuals.

Four geologic hazards are associated with karst. Two common karst-related geologic hazards -- cover-collapse sinkholes and sinkhole flooding -- cause the most damage to buildings. A third karst hazard is relatively high concentrations of radon, sometimes found in basements and crawl spaces of houses built on karst. Finally, the hydrogeology of karst aquifers makes the groundwater vulnerable to pollution, and this vulnerability may also be considered a type of geologic hazard.