Sunday, February 07, 2016

Man killed in sinkhole collapse in Queen Creek

A 60-year old male farm worker died when a sinkhole opened up under him in an agricultural field in Queen Creek, Arizona, south of Phoenix, on Friday afternoon.

We are investigating whether the sinkhole could be part of a larger earth fissure that could extend to homes or roads.  Our initial review suggests that is not likely.  

Joe Cook, who heads our Earth Fissure Mapping Program reports that the site of the Friday death is not near any known earth fissures or in an area normally prone to forming fissures. Arizona Dept. of Water Resources does not show any active subsidence in that area either. In the news videos you can see the water is pouring in from the surface before they blocked the canal with dirt. Because it’s an agricultural area and there has been a lot of tilling and drainage manipulation/ponded water it’s possible this is collapse related to subsurface piping. The collapse appears to be on a bermed portion adjacent to the field and water looks to be routed/ponded there regularly. 

This video of the recovery effort courtesy of NBC News:

More local news reports at:

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Deregulation of geologists in Arizona

A bill was just filed in the Arizona House to deregulate geologists and landscape architects, removing those professions from the AZ Board of Technical Registration and replacing positions on that board with two public members.   

HB2613, if passed, will prohibit geologists from calling ourselves "professional geologists."  We would then be known as "design professionals."  [Photo credit, Resolution Copper]

The proposal is angering geologists across the state.  We are copied on emails flying around the community lining up opposition to the bill.

Stephen Noel, the geologist on the Board of Technical Registration emailed the following message to 

Fellow Arizona Registered Geologist:

On February 4, 2016, HB 2613 was introduced that,  among other things, would eliminate the registration of geologist in the state of Arizona.  As the geologist member on the Arizona Technical Board of Registration, I see first-hand the importance of registration of geologist and the benefits it provides to the health and safety of Arizona citizens and the environment.  Please send a note to your representative and express your opposition to this bill, and how deregulation will negatively impact the public health and safety of all Arizona Citizens based on your unique experiences.   

Time is of the essence, please send today! Thanks.

Stephen D. Noel, R.G.
Arizona Registration No. 17065

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

New and updated Earth Fissure maps released for Maricopa, Pinal, and Cochise counties

AZGS has released six revised and upated earth fissures in south-central and southeastern Arizona for parts of Maricopa, Pinal and Cochise Counties. A single new earth fissure map for just east of the Picacho Mountains in Pinal County was issued.

Updated earth fissure study area maps, include: Luke and Chandler Heights in Maricopa County; Picacho and Friendly Corners (3 map sheets) and Santa Rosa Wash in Pinal County; and North Sulphur Springs Valley and Dragoon Road study areas in Cochise County. 

The maps and digital data are available at the Natural Hazards of Arizona viewer. Individual fissure study area maps are online at the Arizona Geological Survey’s Online Document Repository. A Google Earth .kmz file is available for viewing the fissures on Google Earth. 

All new or revised earth fissure maps employ a base map displaying National Agriculture Imagery Program aerial photography and, when available, a local subsidence map, provided courtesy of the Arizona Department of Water Resources. 

A new fissure line category (yellow lines) portrays select fissures as confirmed that were otherwise not mapped by AZGS’ fissure mapping team. These include fissures mapped by reliable sources and those identified on multiple aerial photographs. Previously, if fissures could not be identified during field checks, the fissure was reported as unconfirmed.

Besides posing a threat to infrastructure, fissures are frequently used for illegal dumping of tires, appliances, construction debris, manure and other sundry items.  Because fissures extend downward towards the groundwater table, they represent a potential conduit for surface runoff to contaminate aquifer resources.

AZGS’s earth fissure mapping team will continue to monitor existing earth fissures and map new ones as they form.  AZGS geologists collaborate with hydrologists from the Arizona Dept. of Water Resources to better understand where and when fissures will occur, and with local environmental and geological engineers on ways to mitigate and minimize the impact of earth fissures.

[excerpted from the AZGS announcement]