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Tracking changes in hydraulic conductivity of soil reclamation covers with the use of air permeability measurements



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The objective of this project was to design a prototype field air permeameter that can be used to track changes in the hydraulic conductivity within soil covers with time. The evolution of soil structure in reclamation soil covers at the Syncrude Canada Ltd. oilsands mine is currently being studied. The Guelph permeameter is currently used to measure hydraulic conductivity, but gathering the data is a very time consuming task due to the relatively low hydraulic conductivity of the cover materials. The use of a faster, more efficient method would increase the capabilities for tracking changes in hydraulic conductivity of reclamation soil covers with time. Three air permeameter design options were evaluated. One design was chosen and a prototype was built. Preliminary field trials were conducted at the Syncrude Canada Ltd. oilsands mine in August 2005. Air permeability measurements were taken on various soil cover treatments and slope positions. Improvements to the air permeameter were implemented in 2006, and additional data gathered. Guelph permeameter testing was carried out alongside the air permeameter in both field seasons. The air permeameter and Guelph permeameter were also tested under controlled laboratory conditions and compared to standard constant head column tests. Results include correlations of air and water permeability for various materials and soil structures. Using dry uniform sand in a laboratory setting, the full scale air permeameter provided permeability values within 21% of a standard constant head column test. Testing of the air and Guelph permeameters on a cover constructed of peat-mineral mix over tailings sand revealed a difference of approximately one order of magnitude in permeability values. A difference of approximately two orders of magnitude existed between permeability values measured with the air and Guelph permeameters on till/secondary soil covers. Further investigation into the difference between values of permeability measured with both methods is necessary. If successful, the air permeameter could prove to be a viable alternative to the Guelph permeameter for use in long-term monitoring of soil covers used in mine reclamation or waste containment. A more efficient air permeability method would allow a greater number of measurements to be made in a shorter time and could be used to track temporal as well as spatial variability in hydraulic conductivity.



reclamation, hydraulic conductivity, air permeability



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Civil Engineering


Civil Engineering


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