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Louche B. and V. Hallet (2001). Determination of tectonic structure in the chalk aquifer along the Nord Pas-de-Calais coast by geophysical prospecting coupled to observations by drilling. Consequences on the salted water distribution. Rev. Sci. Eau 14/3 (2001) 265-280. [article in French]

Original title: Détermination de la structure tectonique de l'aquifère crayeux du littoral Nord Pas-de-Calais par prospection géophysique couplée à des observations par forage. Conséquence sur la répartition d'eau salée.

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Along the North Pas-de-Calais coast between a point south of Boutonnière du Boulonnais and the Authie River, Cretaceous rocks are limited to the east by a paleocliff that overlooks the Quaternary coastal and dune deposits. The chalk aquifer is connected to the Quaternary aquifers and further west to the sea water. Close to the seashore the top of the chalk plateau falls rapidly from 20 m above sea level to 20 m below sea level, causing the aquifer to grade from being unconfined in the east to confined in the west. This chalky aquifer is cut by several faults. A structural survey (LOUCHE et al., 1997) based on borehole data was carried out to evaluate whether the rate and direction of groundwater flow are controlled by the different faults. Two major fault groups striking N030° and N110° have been revealed by the structural map, with a third minor group (N 160- 170°) to the north of the Canche. The two major groups, created during tectonic activity from the Palaeozoic to the present, are composed respectively of structures with general faulting directions of N 100-110° and N 020-040°, previously described by COLBEAUX et al. (1993). Chalk depth and fault location are unknown in certain areas due to the lack of bore holes and outcrops. With the aim of overcoming these deficiencies, three traditional geophysical techniques (electrical sounding, seismic logging and electromagnetic profiling) were carried out between the Canche and Authie rivers in the coastal area, west of the chalky cliffs.

The interpretation of the geophysical results allows us to confirm the presence of previously located faults and identify new ones in the area where the chalk is overlain by Quaternary cover. The chalky aquifer is hence divided by the faults into a series of compartments that are inclined to the south or to the west. In addition, anomalies have been recorded in the fresh water - salt water interface on the Picardy continental shelf (MERCIER & BACROT, 1990). These anomalous zones are aligned along the northern extension of the sub N-S faults proposed by MENNESSIER & BEUN (1980), located a few kilometres to the south. Based on indirect evidence, these latter authors interpreted these faults as being responsible for considerable displacement of a major part of the Quaternary deposits. Given the lack of direct observations on salt-water distribution, geophysical results, and more specifically the electrical soundings, are required to provide supplementary information in order to better understand this phenomenon. Furthermore, the study of the salt water location, using electrical soundings, points out the juxtaposition of deep saline intrusions, demonstrating that the concept of a homogeneous wedge-shaped body parallel to the seashore can no longer be used to describe this chalky aquifer.

In the Bas-Champs area, electromagnetic profiling and three electrical soundings provided additional information on the relation between tectonic events and saline water intrusion (Fig. 3). The electromagnetic profiling shows the presence of two faults (Fig. 6). The vertical faults have an apparent low electrical resistivity (2.5 .m) indicating the presence of brackish or salt water. Electrical sounding carried out to the south of the electromagnetic profile (SE9) shows a decrease in the electrical resistivity from 12.5 m depth, also confirming the presence of salt water. The results of an electrical sounding located to the north of the electromagnetic profile (SE10) show that the ground is saturated with fresh water up to at least 27.2 m (resistivity of 90 .m). At 1 km distance, there is a juxtaposition of three sectors separated by faults filled up with salt water. However, an electrical sounding (SE2, Fig. 2) located near the sea showed that the ground is saturated with fresh water up to at least 52.7 m deep.

Using geological, hydrogeological and geophysical data correlations, between structural context and saltwater intrusion could be established and a new hypothesis for saltwater intrusion for this study area could be proposed. Intrusion is directly dependent on the geometry and the hydrodynamic characteristics of the chalky aquifer, as reflected by its heterogeneous nature.

Salt water seems to follow preferential intrusion directions corresponding to faults rather than the classic model of a salt wedge. These results suggest the hypothesis that the seawater intrusion distribution relates to the tectonic configuration of the aquifer. The chalky series is cut into hydrogeological compartments individualised by tectonic accidents, which are preferential axes for sea intrusion. The presence of a saltwater front located far from the coast, as indicated by electrical soundings, could be explained by the geological history of the maritime plain, where the Pleistocene and Holocene seas covered the maritime plain up to the fossil cliff (LOUCHE et al., 1998).


Unsaturated zone, temperate climate, recharge, water balance, conservative ions, isotopic composition, microporosity, macroporosity.

Corresponding author

Barbara Louche, Laboratoire d'Artois : mécanique et habitat (LAMH), Université d'Artois, Faculté Jean Perrin, SP 18, 62307 Lens Cédex, FRANCE

Email : barbara.louche@univ-artois.fr
Telephone : +33 3 21 79 17 96 / Fax : +33 3 21 79 17 26

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