Jiri Herza, Nihal Vitharana, Alex Gower
The Western Australia Water Corporation plans to increase the storage capacity of Millstream Dam, which is located near Bridgetown in the south west region of WA. The existing dam is an 18 m high zoned earthfill embankment constructed in 1962. The dam suffered a block heave of the foundation at the downstream toe during the first filling, probably attributable to high foundation pore water pressures. The dam upgrade will be challenging due to complex and unfavourable foundation soils coupled with these artesian pressures.
The dam is founded on lateritic soil, which is a common weathering profile throughout the region. These soils formed in a tropical environment of fluctuating water tables, severe leaching and translocation of iron oxides over many millions of years. As a consequence some of the lateritic horizons at Millstream Dam have been modified such that they exhibit behaviours that are not consistent with conventional constitutive models and correlations. These are attributed to a complex structure of the soil microfabric, which comprises clay particles bonded together into larger aggregates. The clayey aggregates are also bonded to each other, forming a porous matrix of silty or sandy appearance characterized by low dry density and high void ratio, which may nevertheless disintegrate on working.
Comprehensive geotechnical investigations and extensive laboratory testing have revealed that the foundation materials display characteristics of clayey and granular soils. Under shearing, these soils demonstrate high initial strength, which gradually reduces as the inter-aggregate bonds are broken and the relative position of the aggregates changes. Several soil samples also exhibited significant contractive behaviour on shearing generating high pore pressures under undrained conditions.
This paper presents the investigation and design methods used in the foundation design of the Millstream Dam upgrade with emphasis on unusual behaviour of the foundation media.
Challenges in dam design on lateritic soils
C.Johnson, D.Stephens, M.Arnold and N.Vitharana
As part of Melbourne Water’s dam safety upgrade program, emergency release capacity is being investigated at a number of dams. Recent work undertaken by the Water Resources Alliance (WRA) for Melbourne Water has highlighted the lack of current Australian guidelines for appropriate emergency release capacity. With no relevant ANCOLD Guidelines, current practice still references the 1990 USBR guidelines which relate the length of time to empty a reservoir to the hazard and risk associated with dam failure. As hazard category assessment criteria has been improved since and dam design and safety standards are more stringent, the applicability of the USBR criteria in today’s environment is under consideration.
With the prevailing climatic conditions requiring the augmentation of Melbourne’s water supplies, the Tarago Reservoir was recently brought back into service. However, the dam lacked adequate emergency and environmental release capacity, with this being critical to manage construction flood risk for a pending filter raising project. Through an analysis of recorded inflow data, it was evident the existing scour facility had insufficient capacity to handle the recorded inflows, and would not be able to maintain the reservoir at an appropriate level during the proposed works. The length of time to empty the reservoir for the existing scour facility and the preferred scour upgrade option were calculated and it was found that by providing a new 1200mm scour facility, USBR emptying times were met or exceeded. The enlarged outlet capacity was also required to meet the new environmental flow requirements for the dam.
The paper will review international guidelines, share the experience of several Australian water authorities in assigning emergency release capacity for their dams, and discuss the specific work undertaken to provide suitable emergency release capacity at Tarago Reservoir for Melbourne Water.
Rick Friedel, Len Murray, Gerrad Suter, James Penman, James Watt, Hendra Jitno
The Hidden Valley tailings storage facility (TSF) has set a new precedent in environmental management of tailings in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Modern mining in PNG arguably began with the development of Bougainville Copper in the late 1960s, and continued through to Ok Tedi, Porgera, Lihir, Misima (and others). These mines have proceeded with deep sea or riverine tailings deposition, rather than construction of a tailings dam to retain the mine waste within an impoundment; as is the practice throughout the majority of the mining industry.
The Hidden Valley TSF is comprised of two large earth and rock fill dams, raised by the downstream method. Starter dam construction was completed in 2009. At final height the Main Dam will be one of the highest tailings dams in the world. The dams are constructed of pit waste and therefore have the dual function of storing tailings and waste rock.
Construction of the starter dams and subsequent raises is complicated by conditions at the site. Water management was, and remains, the dominant issue. High rainfall, weak erosive soils, material availability, dense vegetation and remoteness of the site provide constant challenges to construction. The Observational Approach to construction was recommended by the designers and adopted by the mine operator. This involves a knowledgeable pre-assessment of what is likely to change and having contingency plans to deal with possible major issues. This approach allows changes to the design during construction so the “as-built” product is suited for the site, fit for purpose, and remains consistent with the overall intent of the design.
The TSF has been in operation since August 2009 and monitoring data of the structures has been collected during construction and operation. This data is reviewed to confirm design assumptions and assess dam performance.
Personnel involved with this project combined their experiences working in the PNG environment and dam building from other locations. This process led to close interaction between the mine operators, designers and construction teams. Team work and diligent construction practices were and will continue to be necessary to construct and operate the pioneering TSF in PNG.
Glen Hobbs, Robert Rigg, Alan Hobbs, Adam Butler
Maintenance errors and associated non-conformances are becoming increasingly recognised as a source of system failures in a wide range of industries. Research in other industries has shown that errors often arise in response to local factors beyond the control of the maintainer. Various dam ‘incidents’ have been attributed to maintenance errors. In Australia we have been fortunate with few serious dam safety events. However, the dam operating and maintenance environment is changing dramatically.
A survey of dam maintenance personnel was recently undertaken in Australia. The survey was in the form of 49 questions that asked participants to state how frequently a situation occurred. This survey format has previously been used in other industries; thus allowing a comparison of dam maintenance with other high-risk industries such as rail infrastructure, oil and gas, and airline maintenance.
A number of ‘error-producing’ conditions have been identified and survey results indicate a high level of poor procedures/documentation and supervision; highlighting the need for accurate and appropriate manuals and supervision of tasks. These and other factors are leading to instances of maintenance non-compliance, which may threaten the reliability and safety of equipment. The survey has revealed that trade training needs to be addressed. However, occupational safety issues are low; indicating a positive approach to a safe working environment. The paper also discusses the responses to specific maintenance questions relevant to the dam industry.
Jim Walker, Sergio Vallesi, Neil Sutherland, Peter Amos, Tim Mills
The Tekapo Canal is a 26km long hydropower canal owned by Meridian Energy Ltd in New Zealand. Completed in 1976, the canal is 40m wide, 7m deep and has a capacity of 120m3/s. The canal was constructed from compacted local glacial soils with a compacted silt lining sourced from till deposits.
During 2007 and 2008 the canal showed signs of leakage where it crossed over a twin barrel culvert structure. In October 2008 a diver inspection identified depressions and sinkholes on the invert of the canal above the culvert. Approximately 6m3 of silty gravel lining material had settled. Testing showed direct and rapid connections between lining defects and seepage outflows at the culvert outlet headwall. Subsequent ground penetrating radar survey confirmed the presence of voids above the culvert barrels. Diver placed filling of the defects with granular materials was immediately implemented, and a series of remedial actions over the next four months were required to arrest deterioration and enable the canal to remain operational.
The paper describes the initial response to this situation and the immediate measures taken to prevent failure. It also describes the medium term and ongoing measures implemented to maintain the safety of the canal while permanent remediation requirements are assessed. The lessons learned from this event, and their impacts on Meridian’s Dam Safety Assurance Programme (DSAP) are also discussed.
Immediate response measures included ongoing filling of lining defects with filter gravel, intensive land based and diver surveillance of the canal, planning and resourcing for emergency contingency actions in the event that a risk of breach developed. Medium term measures included arresting leakage by placing a low permeability blanket of silty gravel over the damaged area using a concrete pump, and constructing external buttresses capable of safely withstanding large discharges should deterioration of the canal structure occur.
These short and medium term remedial measures were completed with the canal full and in operation and continue to perform well 20 months later. Continuing risk mitigation measures include enhanced surveillance and monitoring (land based and using divers), localised treatment of defects, as well as ongoing monitoring and review of the Dam Safety management regime and sustained Emergency Management preparedness.
David Ryan, Peter Richardson, William Steen
Ibis Creek Dam, a referable dam and classified as a mass concrete gravity structure, was constructed in 1906 to supply water for both tin ore processing and the local township of Irvinebank. Irvinebank is a small township near Atherton in North Queensland and is situated about 3 km downstream of the dam. The mill ceased operation in 1990 but the township of Irvinebank remains reliant on the dam for water supply.
In 1996 the dam was raised about 1 m and strengthened by the addition of mass concrete on the crest and downstream face.
One recommendation of the Safety Review conducted in 2009 was that an investigation be made of the strength of the lift joints and the shear capacity of the connection between the Stage I and Stage II concrete sections. The investigations revealed that the structure was not constructed as had been originally assumed and the overall stability of the structure had been overestimated.
This paper details the investigations and remedial works proposed to strengthen the structure so that it complies with current design standards.