2011 – Investigating the Piping Risk Associated with Seepage at Monbulk Saddle Dam of Silvan Reservoir, Victoria

Monique de Moel, Mark Arnold, Gamini Adikari

Monbulk Saddle Dam, built in 1929, is one of two saddle dams located at the southern end of Silvan Reservoir, near the township of Monbulk, Victoria. The saddle dam is a 5.3m high earthfill embankment with a 230mm wide, centrally located, concrete core wall. The reservoir retained is located in the valley of Stonyford Creek, and impounds approximately 40,500 ML of water at FSL.

Excessive seepage at the right abutment of Monbulk Saddle Dam has been an issue since the early 1970’s. The reservoir has been operating with a level restriction since then to reduce the seepage flows. However; this restriction limits the operational flexibility of the storage. Early investigations concluded that the most likely mechanism for these excessive seepage flows was a defect in the concrete core wall.

Melbourne Water Corporation, (the owner and the operator of the reservoir), undertook a risk assessment for Silvan Reservoir as part of a review of its dams asset portfolio. Based on the information then available, the risk assessment was undertaken using the criteria and guidelines developed by ANCOLD. The result was that the piping risks associated with the seepage from the west abutment at Monbulk Saddle Dam was unacceptable. The risk assessment Panel also cast doubt on the likelihood of the seepage being caused by a defect in the concrete core wall. Melbourne Water therefore engaged SMEC Australia to investigate the likely causes and mechanisms for this seepage and to develop suitable remedial measures for the dam.

The investigations have included a desktop review of historical information, test pit investigations, Sonic borehole drilling, dynamic cone penetration tests, an infrared thermal imaging investigation and an electromagnetic groundwater seepage flow mapping investigation.

These investigations have shown that the most likely cause of the seepage is the presence of permeable foundation layers located beneath and around the existing core wall as the core wall does not extend over the full length of the embankment and becomes shallower towards the abutments.

To satisfy the ALARP principle; risk reduction remedial works Concept Designs are being developed and reviewed.

2011 – Investigating the Piping Risk Associated with Seepage at Monbulk Saddle Dam of Silvan Reservoir, Victoria

 

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