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.
Canadian Geotechnical Journal
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Malusis, Michael A.; Evans, Jeffrey C.; and Yeom, SeungChoel. "Hydraulic Conductivity of Model Soil-Bentonite Backfills Subjected to Wet-Dry Cycling." Canadian Geotechnical Journal (2011) : 198-211.