2020 Volume 9 Issue 11 Pages 478-484
A finite-element model was developed to evaluate mechanisms contributing to positive pore pressures measured with sealed pressure transducers in the geological buffer beneath the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility (EMWMF), a composite-lined mixed waste disposal facility operated by the US Department of Energy. The geological buffer is a 3-m-thick engineered fine-textured layer directly beneath the EMWMF’s composite liner, and above the groundwater table. The model accounts for changes in pore water pressure resulting from (i) moistening of the geological buffer due to equilibration with the underlying geological materials, (ii) loading imposed by waste placed on the overlying liner, and (iii) fluctuations in the elevation of the underlying groundwater table. Pore water pressures predicted by the model are in good agreement with pore water pressures measured in the field. The predictions confirm that positive pore water pressures recorded by the sealed pressure transducers in the geological buffer are excess pore water pressures induced by the vertical normal stress imposed by waste placed on the liner, and are not due to a rise in the groundwater table. Simulations also showed that two additional years of filling would further increase the pore water pressure without any change in elevation of the groundwater table. The geological buffer remained unsaturated during the simulation, with a Bw-coefficient similar to that computed from the field-measured pore water pressures and waste filling records. Larger increases in pore water pressure were observed when the geological buffer was assumed to have higher initial saturation, as was observed in the field data. Incorporating seasonal fluctuations in the groundwater table beneath the geological buffer in the model resulted in predictions of small seasonal oscillation in the pore water pressure predicted at the measurement location, similar to seasonal oscillations observed in the field. Predictions made with the model indicate that the dissipation of the excess pore water pressures will occur over decades due to the low hydraulic conductivity of the geological buffer material.