An Effective Approach to Rehabilitate Damaged Barrier System Against Piping and Contaminant Flow

David Washington, Daniel Rodriguez, Vincent Ogunro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The monitoring operation of an older impoundment (such as dams and waste barrier materials) during the service life of the structure cannot be overemphasized. Since older infrastructures seem to be more susceptible to piping and seepage failure, their construction design should be analyzed and monitored at places where a potential problem could occur. Once an impoundment is constructed without adequate filters layers and foundation treatments, then the prevention of piping or seepage may require an effective approach to constructing a cut-off wall to prevent eventual failure. In order to identify and understand theses failure modes, it is important to identify the physical parameters of the impoundment system, such as the zones of various soil gradations, the compaction of these zones, the hydraulic conductivity, the compatibility of the soil formations within and beneath the core or liner, as well as the cohesive and dispersive properties of soils at various location within the structure. Once these parameters are known and quantified, an adequate assessment of the structure's susceptibility to piping or contaminant transport can be established. This type of an analysis will enable the proper design of a cut-off wall and predetermine the effectiveness of its long-term performance. The Vermont Waterbury Dam (built in 1938) is example of seepage related problem that implemented a cut-off wall design to prevent piping paths from undermining the structure. In this case, some forensic sampling had to be performed and the parameters of the soils as just mentioned were key factors in determining the wall design. In this paper, the Waterbury dam rehabilitation is investigated as case studies, in order to better understand how older designs and poor construction of impoundments can lead to piping condition in dams as well as failures in waste barrier systems. The Secant Cut-off wall (constructed at Waterbury Dam) is mentioned as a corrective measure taken for this dam and there is a brief discussion as to how this construction rehabilitation technique can be applied to waste barrier impoundments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-17
Number of pages5
JournalGeotechnical and Geological Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Architecture
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Soil Science
  • Geology


  • Barrier remediation
  • Dam rehabilitation
  • Forensic sampling
  • Piping
  • Secant Pile Cutoff wall


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