Geologist gets to the core of the matter on state

According to an old saying, Arkansans could build a wall around their state and still have everything they might need to survive well.

“That’s pretty much true,” Arkansas Geo0logical Survey Education Geologist Sandra Chandler told the Downtown Pine Bluff Rotary Club on Tuesday. “Everything we need or use, we either grow it or mine it.”

Among the state’s elements are natural gas, diamonds, chalk, crystal, sand, gravel and materials utilized in the production of aluminum, roofing shingles, sheet rock and electricity. Mix that with Arkansas’ wide array of agricultural-related products and you’ve got a recipe for independence.

Chandler said the most critical natural element is drinking water, and she’s concerned that not enough is being done to take care of the water supply being removed from aquifers in farming and industry within Southeast Arkansas. She said water “must be protected” and new avenues must be engineered in agricultural usage of water. She said depletion of water in an aquifer could handicap its natural restoration.

“Without water, we wouldn’t exist,” she said, noting AGS promotes “responsible mining” but primarily stresses care and conservation of drinking water.

She detailed the state’s varied and “unique” geology, saying that a sizable portion of the state was under water for much of its history. She also said that the Ozark Mountains aren’t actually mountains, but a series of deep valleys carved by erosion.

Chandler said she’s not overly worried about the possibility of earthquake damage in Southeast Arkansas, but the risk of a quake along the New Madrid Fault — centered in Missouri — looms and grows over time. A series of quakes along the fault line in 1811 and 1812 were said to be so severe that waters of the Mississippi River flowed backward for three consecutive days. Scars from the quake can still be seen today.

Experts have said that if a quake of equal force should occur again, the number of deaths and amount of damage around Memphis and from Kentucky to northeast Arkansas could be devastating. Here, projected damages would be only in the low to moderate range.