Publication Date

2011

Journal

Canadian Geotechnical Journal

Volume

48

Issue

8

First Page

198

Last Page

211

Abstract

The potential for changes in hydraulic conductivity, k, of two model soil-bentonite (SB) backfills subjected to wet-dry cycling was investigated. The backfills were prepared with the same base soil (clean, fine sand) but different bentonite contents (2.7 and 5.6 dry wt %). Saturation (S), volume change, and k of consolidated backfill specimens (effective stress = 24 kPa) were evaluated over three to seven cycles in which the matric suction, Ym, in the drying stage ranged from 50 to 700 kPa. Both backfills exhibited susceptibility to degradation in k caused by wet-dry cycling. Mean values of k for specimens dried at Ym = 50 kPa (S = 30-60 % after drying) remained low after two cycles, but increased by 5- to 300-fold after three or more cycles. Specimens dried at Ym ≥ 150 kPa (S < 30 % after drying) were less resilient and exhibited 500- to 10 000-fold increases in k after three or more cycles. The greater increases in k for these specimens correlated with greater vertical shrinkage upon drying. The findings suggest that increases in hydraulic conductivity due to wet-dry cycling may be a concern for SB vertical barriers located within the zone of a fluctuating groundwater table.

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