Post-permeation stability of modified bentonite suspensions under increasing hydraulic gradients
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Slurry wall is a geotechnical engineering application to control the migration of contaminants by retarding groundwater flow. Sand-bentonite slurry walls are commonly used as levees and containment liners. The performance of bentonite slurry in sand-bentonite slurry walls was investigated by studying the rheological properties of bentonite suspensions, the penetration length of bentonite slurry into clean sand, and stability of the trench under in-situ hydraulic gradients. In this study, the rheological parameters of bentonite suspensions were measured at various bentonite fractions by weight from 6 to 12% with 0-3% of sodium pyrophosphate; an ionic additive to control the rheological properties of the bentonite slurries. The penetrability of the bentonite slurries through Ottawa sand was studied by injecting the slurries into sand columns at different bentonite fractions. The injection tests were performed with the permeameters having different diameters to eliminate any bias on test results due to the different size of permeameter. An empirical correlation for predicting the penetration length of bentonite slurry based on apparent viscosity, yield stress, effective particle size, relative density, and injection pressures was updated by taking into account the effects of the permeameter diameter size. Moreover, the stability of sand-bentonite slurry walls was inspected by studying the hydraulic performance of sand permeated with bentonite suspensions under increasing hydraulic gradients. The critical hydraulic gradient at which washing out of bentonite suspensions is initiated was examined. For specimens with bentonite contents less than the threshold value, the flow occurred through the sand voids and minimal washing out occurred. On the other hand, when the bentonite content was high enough to fill up all the void space between the sand particles, the flow was controlled by the clay void ratio. In this case, washing out did occur with increasing gradients accompanied by an increase in hydraulic conductivity. Accordingly, a relation between the yield stress of bentonite suspensions and the critical hydraulic conductivity was developed.