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Journal Articles Canadian Geotechnical Journal Year : 2003

Heterogeneity detection in an experimental clay liner


In situ hydraulic tests to characterize the field hydraulic conductivity of clay liners used in landfill applications are often positioned randomly. Yet it is well known that the field performance of low permeability clay liners is generally controlled by heterogeneities that may provide preferential pathways for flow. In this paper, an experimental clay liner is investigated in which heterogeneities were incorporated in a controlled fashion. Heterogeneities were embedded within a compacted clay liner at different locations in the plane and at different depths. Heterogeneities of composition were installed by excavating compacted clay at specific locations and replacing it with a more permeable material. Heterogeneities of compaction were introduced by loosely backfilling the clay into the excavations. Two geophysical methods, ground penetrating radar (GPR) and the EM-38 electromagnetic method, were used to examine whether anomalies detected by geophysics were or were not correlated with the precise locations of the heterogeneities. Hydraulic tests were used to characterize the permeability of the intact clay on the one hand and of the heterogeneities on the other hand. Three different in situ hydraulic test methods were used: a pulse test performed in a hand-augered borehole, a sealed single ring infiltrometer test, and a large scale infiltration test (4 m 2 ) that uses a color tracer to detect possible preferential flowpaths. The GPR showed no significant correlation with heterogeneity locations, nor did the EM-38 method when used in the vertical dipole mode. The EM-38 method used in the horizontal dipole mode, showed significant correlation with heterogeneities when they were apparent at the surface. On the other hand, the method did not clearly detect heterogeneities located at depth. There was consistency between the values of hydraulic conductivity obtained from the different hydraulic field and laboratory tests. "Intact" clay hydraulic conductivities were found to lie between 10 –10 and 4 × 10 –9 m/s, while the hydraulic conductivity of the heterogeneities of composition was approximately 10 –7 m/s. The results of this experiment suggest that the EM-38 method may be useful to optimize hydraulic test locations when characterizing clay liners for landfill applications.Key words: clay liner, hydraulic conductivity, heterogeneity.


Earth Sciences
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Dates and versions

hal-04083805 , version 1 (27-04-2023)



Dominique Guyonnet, Jean-Christophe Gourry, Lucien Bertrand, Nadia Amraoui. Heterogeneity detection in an experimental clay liner. Canadian Geotechnical Journal, 2003, 40 (1), pp.149-160. ⟨10.1139/T02-092⟩. ⟨hal-04083805⟩


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