Richard R. Davidson, P.E., CPEng Kenneth B. Hansen, P.E.
Early in the twentieth century, placing concrete core walls within embankment dams was a popular construction technique for small to medium height dams. It became in vogue as a replacement for the popular British dam construction technology of puddle clay core dams which were used between the 1860’s and 1920’s. It avoided the many problems with semi-hydraulic / manned placement methods of the puddle clay cores within narrow trenches. However, after the mid 1930’s this concrete core wall construction fell out of favour because of the improvements made in embankment compaction methods and the difficulties in building reinforced concrete core walls to more significant heights.
Today concrete core wall embankment dams are now reaching an age where their continued performance is being questioned. This dam building technology has become extinct and is unknown to the last few generations of dam engineers. Therefore, it is relevant to re-examine this dam building technology in a modern context and work on answering the following questions. How have these dams performed after almost a century of service? Are there unanticipated performance features that have produced positive results when subjected to extreme flood and seismic events? Does the concrete provide enhanced performance over time? What role does steel reinforcement play in the performance of the core wall? Are there lessons here that can be applied to the more common concrete cutoff wall solutions being applied to embankment dams with seepage problems? This paper examines these questions with a number of illustrative case histories to provide a retrospective illumination of this forgotten dam building technology.
Keywords: Embankment dams, Concrete core walls, Dam construction history.
Bruce Brown, Mark Coghill
Tailings management practices have evolved significantly over the last 30 to 40 years with emphasis on long term geotechnical and geochemical stability to meet community expectations and company liabilities. The main drivers have been environmental protection both during operations and post closure, public safety and water conservation. Mining companies have become aware of the significant risks resulting from the operation of tailings facilities with a number of high profile failures occurring in recent times. The common practice of building a containment structure and depositing tailings as unthickened slurry is being challenged and tested against alternative tailings treatment technologies. These include high rate thickening, paste thickening and filtration. The potential benefits of these technologies include significant reduction in process water losses, reduced design duties for the confinement structures and improved conditions for closure. Notwithstanding these potential benefits, very few facilities have implemented the new technologies due to economic constraints imposed by the evaluation methods used by the mining industry. This paper summarises the available tailings treatment technologies and the resulting implications for tailings facility design. It reviews the benefits and critiques the economic evaluation method currently in use and recommends that the industry changes its evaluation methodology to drive future trends.
Tailings Storage, Current and Future Trends
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
M. A. Hariri Ardebili, M. Akbari and H. Mirzabozorg
This paper presents a study on the effects of incoherence (considering the Harichandran and Vanmarcke coherency model) and wave-passage (considering various wave velocities) on the nonlinear responses of concrete arch dams . A double curvature arch dam was selected as numerical example, the reservoir was modeled as incompressible material and the foundation was modeled as a mass-less medium. Ground motion time-histories were artificially generated based on a Monte Carlo simulation approach. Four different models were considered in the generation of ground motions; Uniform excitation; Just incoherence effect; Just wave passage effect; and finally take into account both incoherence and wave passage effects. It was revealed that modeling incoherency can have significant effect on the structural response of the dam by modifying the dynamic response of uniform excitation and inducing pseudo-static response. Also, it was concluded that incoherency effect overshadow wave passage effect and results caused by wave passage effect are close to the results of uniform excitation.
2011 – Comparison of wave passage and incoherence effects on nonlinear non-uniform excitation of concrete arch dams
Conrad Ginther, Colleen Stratford
The Wyaralong Dam Alliance (WDA), a consortium of seven engineering and contracting companies, was contracted to design and construct the Wyaralong Dam, which impounds the Teviot Brook 14 km from Beaudesert in Queensland, Australia. The dam is an approximately 500 metre long, 48 metre high Roller Compacted Concrete (RCC) structure built on a foundation generally consisting of massive sandstone with intermittent conglomerate zones consisting of cemented gravels, mudclasts and sands. Geologic features of note with regard to dam stability and long term seepage at the site are dominated by downstream sloping bedding features and conglomerate zones. In addition to the bedding-related features, two predominant vertical to subvertical fracture sets exist. The condition of the vertical fractures ranges from tight and fresh at depth to highly weathered and filled with dispersive clay and gravels near the foundation surface. To provide a durable and effective long term seepage barrier for the dam, an extensive foundation cleaning and treatment operation was undertaken. This comprised drilling, blasting, and excavation of the majority of the highly weathered rock and dispersive materials supplemented by localized installation of small cut-offs and dental concrete and the construction of a double-line grout curtain installed using real time computer monitoring, the GIN methodology, and balanced, stable grout mixes.
Foundation Preparation and Seepage Barrier Installation at Wyaralong Dam Construction Project