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INTERNAL EROSION OF DAMS AND THEIR FOUNDATIONS

BALKEMA – Proceedings and Monographs


in Engineering, Water and Earth Sciences
SELECTED AND REVIEWED PAPERS FROM THE WORKSHOP ON INTERNAL EROSION AND
PIPING OF DAMS AND THEIR FOUNDATIONS, AUSSOIS, FRANCE, 25–27 APRIL 2005

Internal Erosion of Dams and


their Foundations
Editors
Robin Fell
School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, The University of New South Wales,
Sydney, Australia

Jean-Jacques Fry
Electricité de France, Le Bourget du Lac Cedex, France

LONDON / LEIDEN / NEW YORK / PHILADELPHIA / SINGAPORE


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British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data


A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data


Internal erosion of dams and their foundations/editors, Robin Fell,
Jean-Jacques Fry.
p. cm.
Includes index.
ISBN 978-0-415-43724-0 (hardcover: alk. paper)
1. Dam failures. 2. Soil erosion. 3. Dams—Foundations. I. Fell,
Robin. II. Fry, J. J. (Jean J.)

TC550.2.I58 2007
627 .8—dc22 2007002563

ISBN: 978-0-415-43724-0 (Hbk)


Internal Erosion of Dams and their Foundations – Fell & Fry (eds)
© 2007 Taylor & Francis Group, London, ISBN 978-0-415-43724-0

Table of Contents

Preface VII

Overview paper

The state of the art of assessing the likelihood of internal erosion of embankment dams, water
retaining structures and their foundations. 1
R. Fell & J.J. Fry

Submitted papers

Assessing the vulnerability of dams to internal erosion 25


R.C. Bridle
Internal erosion in Porjus dam – risk assessment and proposal for upgrading 35
M. Bartsch
Issues in the management of internal erosion in UK embankment dams 45
A.J. Brown
Bureau of Reclamation experience with evaluating internal erosion of embankment dams 55
J.M. Cyganiewicz, W.O. Engemoen & C.G. Redlinger
A framework for assessing the likelihood of internal erosion and piping of embankment dams and
their foundations 65
R. Fell, M.A. Foster & C.F. Wan
Assessment of the likelihood of initiation of erosion in embankment dams 71
R. Fell, C.F. Wan & M.A. Foster
Application of no, excessive and continuing erosion criteria to existing dams 103
M.A. Foster
Re-evaluation of internal erosion incidents at Matahina Dam, New Zealand 115
M.D. Gillon
Detection of internal erosion in embankment dams using temperature, resistivity and
SP measurements 133
S. Johansson
Internal stability of particles in dam cores made of cohesionless broadly graded moraines 151
J. Lafleur & P.H. Nguyen
A specific triaxial device for the study of internal erosion in cohesive soils 159
D. Marot, A. Alexis & F. Bendahmane
The susceptibility of internal erosion in the Suorva Dam 167
Å. Nilsson
Filters and internal erosion in Swedish dams 173
Å. Nilsson

V
Hydraulic criteria for internal erosion in cohesionless soil 179
S. Perzlmaier
Evaluation of erosion of soil used in dykes and earth embankments which are subjected to flood 191
P. Reiffsteck
Evaluating internal instability and internal erosion in a selection of existing Swedish
embankment dams 203
H.F. Rönnqvist
A review of Corps of Engineers levee seepage practices in the United States 209
G.L. Sills, PE & N. Vroman
Investigation of internal erosion by the process of suffusion in embankment dams and their
foundations 219
C.F. Wan & R. Fell
FIREBIRD_Breach: A numerical model for breach formation in earthfill dams by overtopping
of the crest 235
P. Wang & R. Kahawita

Subject Index 243


Author Index 245

VI
Internal Erosion of Dams and their Foundations – Fell & Fry (eds)
© 2007 Taylor & Francis Group, London, ISBN 978-0-415-43724-0

Preface

Internal erosion and piping in embankments and their foundations is the main cause of failures and accidents
to embankment dams. For new dams the potential for internal erosion and piping can be controlled by
good design and construction of the core of the dam and provision of filters to intercept seepage through
the embankment and the foundations.
However many existing dams were not provided with filters or transition zones and are susceptible
to internal erosion and piping failure. This has been recognized by dam owners and engineers and there
has been research carried out in recent years to better understand the physical processes and mechanics
of internal erosion. The editors believed that there would be considerable benefits in gathering together
international experts on the topic in order to define the state of the art and to seek their ideas on research
needs.
Electricité de France (EDF) and the Institut pour la Recherche Appliquée et l’Expérimentation, (IREX)
agreed to sponsor a Workshop on Internal Erosion and Piping of Dams and their Foundations which was
held from the 25th to 27th April 2005 in Aussois, France, with two objectives: (a) Definition of the main
types of physical processes of internal erosion, and of the framework upon which the safety assessment
of all the internal erosion incidents of water retaining structures can be based. (b) Assessment of current
research needs.
This book presents an overview paper which is a consensus report on the State of the Art and research
needs. It has been prepared based on the papers and discussion at the Workshop and has been reviewed by
the attendees. Also presented is a selection of the papers presented at the Workshop. These cover the whole
internal erosion process from initiation of erosion, continuation (whether filters are effective), progression
to form a pipe, and formation of a breach.

Robin Fell
School of Civil and Environmental Engineering,
The University of New South Wales,
Sydney, Australia
Jean-Jacques Fry
Electricité de France,
Le Bourget du Lac Cedex,
France

VII
Internal Erosion of Dams and their Foundations – Fell & Fry (eds)
© 2007 Taylor & Francis Group, London, ISBN 978-0-415-43724-0

The state of the art of assessing the likelihood of internal erosion of


embankment dams, water retaining structures and their foundations

Robin Fell
School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Jean-Jacques Fry
Electricité de France CIH, Le Bourget Cedex, France

ABSTRACT: An International Workshop on Internal Erosion of Embankment Dams and their Foundations
was held in Aussois, France from 25th to 27th July 2006.This paper presents a consensus report on the State of
the Art. It has been prepared based on the papers and discussions at the Workshop, and has been reviewed by the
attendees.
The internal erosion process is considered in terms of initiation of erosion, continuation (whether filters will
stop erosion), progression, detection and intervention, and breach.
Research needs to improve the prediction of the likelihood of internal erosion are described.

1 INTRODUCTION The method was developed in 4 steps:


1. Attendees were issued an invitation to attend the
Electricité de France (EDF) owns 400 dams (including
workshop. The invitation included a questionnaire
150 large embankment dams) and 584 km of dykes,
designed to focus technical papers and discussion
the majority of which are very old. Internal ero-
on the main phenomena and problems in dams and
sion is the major potential mode of failure of these
their foundations. The questionnaire is attached in
structures. In view of this, EDF wishes to improve
Appendix B
its methods for assessing the likelihood of internal
2. Submission of papers by workshop attendees to
erosion of its dams and dykes. Given the contradict-
consider answers to the questions.
ory information contained in the literature, EDF felt
3. Presentation of papers, discussions and workshop
that there was a need to gather together international
sessions to compare experience and judgement,
experts on the topic in order to define the state of
followed by writing of a synthesis of the main
the art.
conclusions reached at the workshop.
The Institut pour la Recherche Appliquée et
4. Submission of final synthesis and papers, taking
l’Expérimentation, (IREX) is about to launch a
into account additional questions and comments on
research program on internal erosion of dams and
the draft from attendees.
dykes, and supported the idea of gathering experts
and to seek their ideas on research needs. Six topics describing the internal erosion failure
With this background, a workshop was held from process were discussed at the workshop:
the 25th to 27th April 2005 in Aussois, France, with
• Topic 1 – Initiation.
two objectives:
• Topic 2 – Continuation.
1. Definition of the main types of physical processes • Topic 3 – Progression.
of internal erosion, and of the framework upon • Topic 4 – Breach (failure).
which the safety assessment of all the internal ero- • Topic 5 – Detection and Intervention.
sion incidents of water retaining structures can be • Topic 6 – Frameworks and Decision Processes.
based.
This paper has been prepared by Robin Fell of
2. Assessment of current research needs.
the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering,
The workshop was attended by 37 people. The list the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Aus-
of attendees is provided in Appendix A. tralia, and Jean-Jacques Fry of the Centre d’Ingénierie

1
INITIATION → CONTINUATION → PROGRESSION → BREACH/FAILURE
Leakage exits on d/s side Continuation of erosion Backward ero- Breach mechanism
of core and backward erosion sion progresses forms
initiates back to the reservoir

Figure 1. Diagram of internal erosion in the embankment by backward erosion (Foster & Fell, 1999a).

PORE PRESSURES INCREASE


COLLAPSE OF PIPE LEADING WITH INTERNAL EROSION SLOPE INSTABILITY OF
TO LOSS OF FREEBOARD DOWNSTREAM SHOULDER

OUTFLOW

ENLARGING

ORIGINAL PORE
PRESSURES

Breach by pipe enlargement Breach by slope instability

Figure 2a. Potential breach (failure) phenomena-pipe enlargement and slope instability.

d’Hydraulique (CIH), Electricité de France, Le Bour- by the seepage flow and the process gradually works
get, France, who were the principal organizers of the its way towards the upstream side of the embankment
workshop. Gregg Barker of Hydro Tasmania, Hobart, or its foundation until a continuous pipe is formed
Australia (who was working on secondment to Elec- (Figure 1).
tricité de France) also assisted with the organization Breach. Breach is the final phase of internal erosion.
of the workshop and with the preparation of this It may occur by one of the following four phenomena
synthesis. (listed below in order of their observed frequency of
This synthesis is a record of the main conclusions occurrence). The breach phenomena are also shown
from the workshop and summaries the research needs. graphically in Figure 2.
It was prepared in a draft form, has been reviewed • Gross enlargement of the pipe (which may include
by the attendees and represents, so far as is practic-
the development of a sinkhole from the pipe to the
able, a consensus of views of those who attended the
crest of the embankment).
workshop. • Slope instability of the downstream slope.
• Unravelling of the downstream face.
• Overtopping (e.g. due to settlement of the crest from
suffusion and/or due to the formation of a sinkhole
2 DEFINITIONS
from a pipe in the embankment).
For the purposes of this paper, the following def- Concentrated leak erosion. Erosion in a concen-
initions are used. The definitions are presented in trated leak may occur in a crack in an embankment
alphabetical order. or its foundation, caused by differential settlement,
Backward erosion. Backward erosion involves the desiccation, freezing, and thawing, and by hydraulic
detachment of soils particles when the seepage exits fracture; or it may occur in a continuous perme-
to a free unfiltered surface, such as the ground surface able zone containing coarse and/or poorly compacted
downstream of a soil foundation or the downstream materials which form an interconnecting voids system
face of a homogeneous embankment or a coarse (Figure 3). The concentration of flow causes erosion
rockfill zone immediately downstream from the fine (sometimes called scour) of the walls of the crack or
grained core. The detached particles are carried away interconnected voids.

2
CREST SET TLES & PIPE OUTFLOW EXCEEDS
DAM OVERTOPS ROCKFILL CAPACITY;
FINE FRACTION
ROCKFILL DISLOGES
MIGRATES
CAUSING SLOPE IN-
STABILITY

CLAY
CORE

SUFFUSIVE COARSE FRACTION


ZONE REMAINS

Breach by overtopping by settlement Breach by unravelling of the downstream face

Figure 2b. Potential breach (failure) phenomena-overtopping by settlement and unravelling of the downstream face.

INITIATION → CONTINUATION → PROGRESSION → BREACH/FAILURE


Concentrated leak forms and erosion Continuation of erosion Enlargement of con- Breach mechanism forms
initiates along walls of crack centrated leak

Figure 3. Diagram of internal erosion in the embankment in a concentrated leak (Foster & Fell 1999a).

Continuing Erosion Detection. Detection is the ability to detect the


CONTINUING Boundary internal erosion process during one of the erosion
EROSION
phases. Currently, internal erosion is most easily
DF15 EXCESSIVE detected in the progression or breach phases.
EROSION Excessive Erosion Excessive erosion. The filter is between the exces-
SOME
Boundary sive erosion and continuing erosion criteria and seals
EROSION but after ‘excessive’ erosion of the base soil.
No Erosion
Failure mode. Failure mode describes how the
NO EROSION Boundary dam could fail for the particular loading condition. It
includes the definition of loading, the internal erosion
Other factor e.g. DB85
path and internal erosion phases (initiation of ero-
sion, continuation, progression and breach). In event
Figure 4. Conceptual filter erosion boundaries (Foster, tree analysis, each failure mode is represented by one
1999), Foster & Fell (1999b, 2001). complete event tree.
Heave (also known as ‘blow out’ or ‘liquefac-
tion’) occurs in cohesionless soils when seepage pore
Continuation. Continuation is the phase where the pressures are such that the effective stress becomes
relationship of the particle size distribution between zero (pore pressure equals total stress). ‘Heave’ may
the base (core) material and the filter controls whether often be followed by backward erosion if the seepage
or not erosion will continue. Foster and Fell (1999b, gradients remain high at the surface.
2001) and Foster (1999) define four levels of sever- Hydraulic fracture occurs in the core of embank-
ity of continuation from ‘no erosion’ to ‘continuing ment dams when the minor principal stress in the core
erosion’ (Figure 4). Definitions the levels of sever- becomes zero or even slightly negative if the soil can
ity of continuation are provided in this section in withstand tensile stresses. The pressure of the water
alphabetical order. seeping through the core from the reservoir exceeds
Factors such as the dispersivity of the soil may also the remaining compressive stress and forms a crack
affect the continuation phase. or further opens an existing crack in which internal
Continuing erosion. The filter is coarser than erosion may initiate.
the continuing erosion criteria and is too coarse Initiation. Initiation is the first phase of internal
to allow the eroded base materials to seal the erosion, when one of the phenomena of detach-
filter. ment of particles occurs. Four initiation phenomena

3
are defined: concentrated leak, backward erosion,
suffusion and soil contact erosion (each of which are
defined separately in this section).
Internal erosion. Occurs when soil particles within
an embankment dam or its foundation, are carried
downstream by seepage flow. Internal erosion can ini-
tiate by concentrated leak erosion, backward erosion,
suffusion and soil contact erosion.
Internal erosion path. Internal erosion path is the
path of moving eroded particles inside the dam and/or
its foundation.
Internal erosion phases. Internal erosion of Figure 5. Grading envelopes of some broadly graded soils
which did not self filter (Sherard, 1979).
embankment dams and their foundations can be re-
presented by four phases:
upstream and the downstream side of the embankment
• Initiation of erosion. or its foundation.
• Continuation of erosion (i.e. whether there are Progression. Progression is the third phase of
filters capable of stopping the erosion process). internal erosion, where hydraulic shear stresses within
• Progression to form and sustain a pipe and/or to the eroding soil may or may not lead to the enlargement
increase seepage and pore pressures in the down- of the pipe. Increases of pore pressure and seepage
stream part of the embankment or its foundation. occur. The main issues are the likelihood of and rate
• Development of a breach resulting in uncontrolled of pipe enlargement and whether the pipe will col-
release of the water from the reservoir. lapse, whether upstream zones may control the erosion
Intervention. Intervention is the ability to stop the process by flow limitation and whether a pipe will
internal erosion process during one of the first three extend through the low permeability zones of the
phases and prior to the formation of a breach. embankment.
Load. The main loads exerted on a dam are hydro- Self-filtering. In soils which self-filter, the
static loads (which are related to the reservoir level) coarse particles prevent the internal erosion of the
and seismic loads (which may be expressed in terms medium particles, which in turn prevent erosion of the
of earthquake magnitude and peak ground acceleration fine particles. Soils which potentially will not self-
[PGA]). Other potential loads include acts of terrorism filter include those which are susceptible to suffusion
or an aero plane crashing into the dam. The likeli- (internal instability), and very broadly graded soils
hood of a given reservoir level load is expressed as such as those which fall into the grading envelope
the annual probability or frequency that the maximum shown in Figure 5. Figure 5 is from Sherard (1979).
reservoir level is within a certain range. The likelihood The soils had particle size distributions which plotted
of a given seismic load is expressed as the annual prob- nearly as a straight line, were of glacial origin, and the
ability or frequency of a loading parameter (e.g. peak dams from which the soils were taken had all exhibited
ground acceleration) being in a certain range. signs of internal erosion. The soils have a volume of
Load condition. A load condition is a theoretical fine particles greater than the volume of voids between
combination of different loads exerted on a dam at a the coarse sand and gravel fraction and the coarser par-
given time for analysis purposes. The loading condi- ticles are ‘floating’ in the finer particles. The figure is
tion is the first node of the internal erosion assessment. not meant to define the boundary of such soils, only
The loading condition controls whether certain failure examples.
modes are possible, and affects the likelihood of each Soil contact erosion (also described as external or
of the internal erosion phases. Table 3 (Section 4.1.1) surface suffusion). Soil contact erosion is a form of
provides some recommended loading conditions. internal erosion which involves selective erosion of
Location of initiation of erosion. This is the physical fine particles from the contact with a coarser layer,
initiating point of internal erosion in the structure such for instance along the contact between silt and gravel
as in the embankment, foundation, along a conduit sized particles (Figure 6)
or along a spillway interface. (Refer to Figure 12 in, Some erosion. The filter is between the no erosion
Section 4.1.2). and continuing erosion criteria and seals after ‘some’
No erosion. The filter is finer than the no erosion erosion of the base material.
criteria and seals with practically no erosion of the Suffusion and internal instability. Suffusion is a
base material. form of internal erosion which involves selective ero-
Piping. Piping is the form of internal erosion which sion of fine particles from the matrix of coarser
initiates by backward erosion, or erosion in a crack or particles (coarse particles are not floating in the fine
high permeability zone, and results in the formation particles). The fine particles are removed through the
of a continuous tunnel called a ‘pipe’ between the voids between the larger particles by seepage flow,

4
FINE-GRAINED
MATERIAL

MIGRATION OF FINE MATERIAL INTO


INTERFACE THE COARSE MATERIAL AT THE
INTERFACE

COARSE-GRAINED
MATERIAL

DIRECTION
OF SEEPAGE
FLOW

Figure 6. Diagram of soil contact erosion.

100
90 CLAY TO SILT SAND GRAVEL

80
70
% Passing

60
50 GAP GRADED SOIL

40
30
20
COARSELY GRADED SOIL
10 WITH A FLAT TAIL OF FINES

0
0.001 0.01 0.1 1 10 100 1000
Particle size (mm)

Figure 7. Soil gradation types which are susceptible to suffusion or internal instability.

leaving behind an intact soil skeleton formed by the Figures 1 and 2 for internal erosion in the embank-
coarser particles. Soils which are susceptible to suffu- ment, and Figure 8(a) and 8(b) for internal ero-
sion are internally unstable. Coarse graded and gap sion in the foundation and from embankment to
graded soils, such as those shown schematically in foundation.
Figure 7 are susceptible to suffusion.
In these soils the volume of fines is less than the 3.2 General description
volume of voids between the coarse particles.
The process of internal erosion and piping of a dam
embankment and/or its foundation is best considered
in a systematic way, so that all internal erosion phases
3 GENERAL DESCRIPTION
are considered for each failure mode and loading
condition.
3.1 The overall process
Table 1 below summarizes the key factors to be con-
The overall process for internal erosion leading sidered, in a general manner, in each successive phase
to failure of a dam is shown diagrammatically in of internal erosion.

5
INITIATION → CONTINUATION → PROGRESSION → BREACH/FAILURE
Leakage exits from the Continuation of Backward erosion in Breach mechanism
foundation and backward erosion progresses to form a forms
erosion initiations pipe

Figure 8a. Model for the development of failure by internal erosion in the foundation by backward erosion. (Foster & Fell
1999a).

(b)
INITIATION → CONTINUATION → PROGRESSION → BREACH/FAILURE
Leakage exits the core into Continuation Backward erosion pro- Breach mechanism
the foundation and backward of erosion gresses to form a pipe. forms
erosion initiates as core Eroded soil is transported
erodes into the foundation in the foundation

Figure 8b. Model for the development of failure by internal erosion from the embankment to foundation by backward erosion.
(Foster & Fell 1999a).

The successive internal erosion phases can be 4 DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE


presented using flowcharts. The advantages of INDIVIDUAL PHASES
flowcharts are:
4.1 Loading conditions and location of
1. They enable the linkages between the successive initiation of internal erosion
phases of a failure mode to be shown graphically.
2. They enable multiple failure modes to be shown 4.1.1 Loading conditions
graphically. The scenario of loading conditions must firstly be
3. They make it easier to set up event trees to defined. Examples of loading conditions which should
quantify the likelihoods of the presented failure be considered are shown in Table 3.
modes. Where the frequencies of failure are quantified
the full range of flood levels and earthquake load-
Figure 9 below is a simplified event tree ings should be considered. Experience shows that it
representing the linkages between the successive is not usually the extreme (rare) flood events which
phases of a failure mode and the different factors to be have the greatest impact on the annual probabil-
considered at each phase. ity of dam failure by internal erosion. It is usually
If the likelihood of internal erosion is to be quanti- more frequent floods such as the 1:100 year return
fied event trees are used to model the process. period flood which contribute most. Internal ero-
Note that it is common to have a number of internal sion initiated by erosion cracks caused by earthquake
erosion failure modes in a dam and its foundation (refer seldom contributes significantly to the frequency of
Section 4.1.2). failure.
This approach systematically addresses all of the The loading condition has a great influence on the
questions faced by an engineer who is responsible for location of the initiating event and its likelihood of
assessing an internal erosion problem. Table 2 and occurrence. An example of the most probable loca-
Figure 10 show an example of a sequence of such tions according to the loading condition is provided in
questions. Table 4 and illustrated in Figure 11.

6
Table 1. Summary of the key factors to be considered in each of the successive phases of internal erosion.
Loading Location Initiation Continuation Progression Detection Intervention Breach

HYDROSTATIC EMBANKMENT BACKWARD FILTERS THE RATE OF PIPING MODE PIPING MODE GROSS
EROSION EROSION ENLARGEMENT
Frequent water level Upper portion PERSONNEL
MONITORING AVAILABILITY
Rare flood Lower portion NO EROSION FREQUENCY AND AND TRAINING
CONCENTRATED WILL PIPE STAY TYPE (EG LEAKAGE,
Safety flood Along conduit LEAK OPEN? TEMPERATURE) EQUIPMENT UNRAVELLING
EXCESSIVE AVAILABILITY OR SLIPE IN-
SEISMIC Adjacent wall EROSION STABILITY
UPSTREAM MATERIALS
OBE over changes in SUFFUSION FLOW LIMITA- AVAILABILITY
slope in the cross TION BY WELL SURVEILLANCE LOSS OF FREE-
MDE valley foundation CONTINUING GRADED ROCK- FREQUENCY WEATHER BOARD BY
profile CONTACT EROSION FILL OR CON- CREST
(It is preferable to EROSION CRETE FACE FLOODING SETTLEMENT

7
consider the full At construction SLAB:
range of flood levels features such as ACCESS
and seismic loads haul roads and river
rather than only closure sections NO FILTER (
extreme values) CRITICAL =CONTINUING TIME OF
FOUNDATION GRADIENTS OR EROSION CRITICAL INTERVENCE SINKHOLE AND
VELOCITY GRADIENT OR DEPENDING ON LOSS OF FREE-
Valley which use particle VELOCITY THE RATE OF BOARD
size, or using DEVELOPMENT
Abutment methods based on OF INTERNAL
opening size or EROSION AND
EMBANKMENT permeability PIPING
TO FOUNDATION

Valley

Abutment
LOADING LOCATION INITIATION CONTINUATION PROGRESSION DETECTION & BREACH
INTERVENTION

GROSS
ENLARGEMENT

SLOPE INSTABILITY
NO DETECTION
OR INTERVENTION
EROSION, ENLARGE, OVERTOPPING DUE TO
SUSTAIN PIPE CREST SETTLEMENT
EXCESSIVE DETECTION AND
EROSION INTERVENTION
UNRAVELLING OF THE
NO PROGRESSION DOWNSTREAM FACE
CONTINUOUS
EROSION
BACKWARD
EROSION

SOME EROSION
CONCENTRATED
LEAK

EMBANKMENT NO EROSION

SUFFUSION
FREQUENT
RESERVOIR LVL FOUNDATION
SOIL CONTACT
EROSION
EMBANKMENT TO
FLOOD FOUNDATION

EARTHQUAKE

Figure 9. Event tree representing the various phases of failure by internal erosion through the embankment.

Table 2. Example of a sequence of questions faced when assessing an internal erosion problem.

Question Answer

(1) What is the loading condition? Reservoir rises to X metres above full supply level
(2) What are the possible mechanisms Erosion initiates as concentrated leak erosion in
of initiating erosion? cracks near the dam crest
(3) What is the filter efficiency in controlling erosion? Erosion continues at an unfiltered exit point
(4) What are the hydraulic consequences Progression: erosion can form a pipe (dam core supports
of the on-going erosion? a stable roof and the core will not self heal); inflows are not limited
by entrance condition; soil continues to be erodible under the
hydraulic conditions
(5) Are the consequences detected? Detection only when a pipe has formed with large flows
(6) What are the possible means of a Not possible to lower the reservoir level; flow too great to install a
quick and efficient repair? reverse filter to control erosion. Intervention unsuccessful
(7) What breach mechanisms may develop? Breach process begins by instability of the downstream slope

4.1.2 Location of initiation of internal erosion and There are three categories of internal erosion modes
failure path in a typical analysis. These were developed by Foster &
All possible locations of initiation of internal erosion Fell (1999a) from work by Von Thun (1996) and are
should be defined for the dam (Figure 12 gives some as follows:
examples). Many cases of failure due to internal ero-
1. Internal erosion in the dam embankment.
sion are related to initiation of erosion along conduits,
2. Internal erosion in the foundation.
the interface of the core with the spillway, cracks due
3. Internal erosion from the dam embankment into the
to differential settlement on construction surfaces such
foundation.
as winter or wet season shut downs and river diver-
sion closures and on the contact between foundation Internal erosion in the foundation is only an issue
and core. for soil and erodible rock foundations. Internal erosion

8
2 Erosion initiates in crack
3 Erosion continues
(no filter above FSL)
1 Reservoir level rises 4 Erosion progresses
Full supply level x to form a pipe
5 Seepage detected
when pipe is formed
6 Slope instability
leading to loss
of freeboard
Rockfill Earthfill core Rockfill
5
Filter

Figure 10. Example of internal erosion and piping in the embankment (to be read in conjunction with Table 2).

Table 3. Examples of loading conditions to be considered for assessing the likelihood of internal erosion.

Reservoir level Earthquake Example of return period-years

Frequent water level No 1:1


Flood of record No 1:100
Flood level reaching cracks No 1:1000
in the core or overtopping the core
Dam crest level or PMF No 1:10,000
Full supply level OBE 1:150 to 1:500
Full supply level Earthquake sufficient to cause 1:1000
cracking to below full supply level
Full supply level MDE 1:10,000

Table 4. Location of possible initiating events according to the loading condition.

Above the top


Loading condition Along outlet conduit Through cracks in the core of the core Adjacent spillway wall

Full supply level X X (3A, B) X


Flood 1:100 year X X (3A, B) X
Dam Crest flood X X (3A, B, C) X X
Earthquake X X (3A, B) X

Note. See Figures 11 and 12 for explanation of flood levels relative to the level of the top of the core, and the locations of 3A,
B and C.

1:10,000 YEAR FLOOD

1:100 YEAR FLOOD

FULL SUPPLY LEVEL


CORE
UPSTREAM FILTER DOWNSTREAM
SHOULDER SHOULDER

Figure 11. Relationship between flood levels and top of the core for an example dam.

9
1. Spillway wall interface 5. Embankment to foundation
2. Adjacent to conduit 6. Foundation (if the foundation is soil or erodible rock)
3. Crack associated with steep abutment profile 7. Embankment through poorly compacted layer, crack,
4. Desiccation on top of core (or by backward erosion if the core is cohesionless)

Figure 12. Example of possible locations of initiation of internal erosion.

from the embankment into the foundation may occur 4.1.3 Initiation by suffusion
where there are coarse soils such as gravels or open Internal erosion by suffusion can apply to the embank-
jointed rock in the foundation. ment and to soils in the foundation. Table 5 is a record
There can be multiple failure modes in different of the discussions which took place at the workshop,
parts of the embankment in each of these categories and details the methods available for assessing the sus-
for any dam so it is important to identify all these by ceptibility of soils to suffusion. For each method, the
a thorough failure modes analysis, and to assess the reference, the area of application (i.e. types of soils)
likelihood of failure of each separately to identify the and some comments from workshop participants are
most critical ones. provided.

10
Table 5. Methods available for assessing the susceptibility of soils to suffusion.

Reference Area of application Comments

Identifying internally unstable soils


Kenney & Lau (1985, 1986) Broadly graded and gap Wan & Fell (2004a,b, 2005) indicates that this method
graded sand-gravel soils is probably conservative, particularly for silt-sand-
gravel soils
When applied to broadly graded cohesionless moraines
(fines around 40%), which are typical Swedish
embankment dam core materials, the method appears
to present conservative results (H Rönnqvist)
When applied to existing Swedish zoned embankment
dams where internal erosion has been detected,
all dams are assessed to have ‘internally unstable’ core
material and most of the dams in question have
‘internally unstable’ filters as well (H Rönnqvist)
Burenkova (1993) Silt-sand-gravel soils Wan & Fell (2004a, b, 2005) indicate that this method
is more reliable for silt-sand-gravel soils than Kenney &
Lau (1985,1986). However some soils classified as
shown to be non suffusive are shown to be suffusive
in laboratory tests
Wan and Fell (2004a,b, 2005) Gap-graded and broadly-graded Extends Burenkova (1993) to silt-sand-gravels and
silt-sand-gravel and clay-silt- clay-silt-sand-gravels with limited clay size particles
sand-gravel soils and gives a method for assessing the probability that
soils are internally unstable
Lafleur et al (1989) Sand-gravel soils Conceptual approach, no criteria defined
Schuler (1995) Silt-sand-gravel soils Recommends Sherard (1979) for gap-graded soils
and Burenkova (1993) for broadly-graded soils
Critical gradient at which suffusion may initiate
Skempton & Brogan (1994) Sand-gravel soils Limited testing (only two internally unstable soils)
shows suffusion initiates at gradients as low as 0.2
Wan & Fell (2004a,b, 2005) Silt-sand-gravel soils Limited testing shows suffusion initiates at gradients
as low as 0.2; the critical gradient is dependent
on the porosity, soil plasticity and whether
the soil is gap graded
Quantity of erosion
Wan & Fell (2004a,b, 2005) Silt-sand-gravel-soils Method based on Kenney & Lau (1985, 1986)
Burenkova (1993) Silt-sand-gravel soils Wan & Fell (2004a,b, 2005) shows the method
underestimates the size of the largest particle eroded
Lubochkov (1965) Sand-gravel soils Wan & Fell (2004a,b, 2005) shows the method
overestimates the size of the largest particle eroded soil

Detailed comments arising from discussion in the was that soils with a PI not greater than 7% were
workshop include: potentially subject to suffusion.
4. The term ‘suffosion’ has been applied to situations
1. BC Hydro testing has shown that the critical gradi- described in this paper as ‘soil contact erosion’.
ent is influenced by the stresses on the soil (more Suffosion has also been used in some literature to
likely at low stresses), and the direction of flow describe backward erosion in broadly graded soils
(horizontal versus vertical). with a finer fraction which is too large to satisfy the
2. Their testing also showed that gradients vary locally requirements for suffusion. That is in soils which
within the test sample, and that erosion occurred are not internally unstable as defined here, but will
locally within the sample, rather than globally. not self filter.
3. Participants indicated that plastic soils would not be 5. It was suggested by R Bridle that the Vaughan &
subject to suffusion. Lafleur indicated soils with a Soares (1982), Vaughan and Bridle (2004) ‘perfect
Plasticity Index (PI) greater than about 10% would filter’ concept could be applied to assess whether
not be subject to suffusion, Wan indicated soils with soils would be internally unstable. However this is
clay size content up to 10% and a PI of up to 13% at the conceptual stage at this time.
had been tested at UNSW and had been subject to 6. There would appear to be valuable data on suffusion
suffusion. Bellendir indicated Russian experience in the Russian literature.

11
Table 6. Methods available for assessing the susceptibility of soils to backward erosion.

Reference Area of application Comments

Weijers & Sellmeijer (1993) Fine-medium sand Based on flume tests, some large scale, exit
Uniformity coefficient (Cu) 1.6–3.5; gives surface horizontal
the gradient for initiation and progression Critical gradient depends on permeability, d70 ,
angle of repose and test geometry
Schmertmann (2000) Fine to medium sands Cu up to 6.8 Critical gradient is dependent on Cu,
gradients as low as 0.1 for Cu 1.2 and
1 for Cu approximately 6
Kézdi (1969)
German research in
Karlsruhe University
Monnet (1998) Sand-gravel soils Threshold criteria is dependent upon
permeability

4.1.4 Initiation by backwards erosion. 3. The participants considered that backward erosion
Table 6 is a record of the discussions which took place was probably restricted to cohesionless soils or soils
at the workshop, and details the methods available with only limited plasticity at gradients likely to
for assessing the susceptibility of soils to backward occur within a dam. However, the limits of plasticity
erosion. For each method, the reference, the area of at which backward erosion could occur were not
application (i.e. types of soils) and some comments known. Laboratory tests by Sun (1989) and Marot
from workshop participants are provided. et al (2005) showed that backward erosion could
Detailed comments arising from discussion in the occur in more cohesive soils, but initiated at very
workshop: high gradients which were not likely to occur in
dams or their foundations.
1. The Schmertmann (2000) method indicates that 4. When assessing seepage gradients in the cores of
for soils with a uniformity coefficient greater than embankment dams account should be taken of the
6, backward erosion would not occur unless the variation in permeability of the soil with effective
hydraulic gradient was greater than 1.0. How- stress (as detailed in Vaughan, 1994) and degree
ever many Swedish dams, with broadly graded of saturation (Le Behan & Leroueil, 2002). These
silty-sandy-gravel core materials have experienced variations will tend to give higher pore pressure
internal erosion at gradients from 0.5 to 1.0 and this gradients at the downstream side of the core than
would seem to contradict the Schmertmann method would be estimated using uniform permeability’s.
if it is due to backward erosion. For these dams 5. There was a suggestion that there was literature
the exit surface is steeper than for the Schmert- from the petroleum industry which could be useful.
mann tests which may help explain the difference.
However the fill in these dams was placed in thick 4.1.5 Initiation by soil contact erosion
(700 mm) layers so the internal erosion process may Soil contact erosion can apply to erosion of the
be that of a concentrated leak in poorly compacted embankment into a coarse gravel layer in the foun-
soil, not backward erosion. dation or erosion of a fine soil in the foundation into
2. There was concern from some that the flume tests a gravel layer.
by Weijers & Sellmeijer (1993) and Schmertmann Table 7 is a record of the discussions which took
(2000) involve a planar smooth surface along which place at the workshop, and details the methods avail-
the water flows and therefore they simulate phe- able for assessing the susceptibility of soils to soil
nomena that are somewhat different from those contact erosion. For each method, the reference, the
illustrated by Figure 1. The tunnel forms a pipe area of application (i.e. types of soils) and some
because the overlying ‘roof’is the plexi-glass cover, comments from workshop participants are provided.
a situation different from those in Figure 1 where Detailed comments arising from discussion in the
the overlying soil may collapse and self-heal the workshop:
erosion process. In a dam this roof would have to be 1. There are difficulties to determine the critical
provided by a clay soil inter-bedded with the sand, hydraulic gradient depending on the layering and
the clay core of the dam, or for spillway structures the angle of the contact, direction of the flow,
concrete of the spillway. It is noted that the tests intensity of stress and influence of time.
involved sands having uniformity coefficient val- 2. This is a phenomenon which has received relatively
ues substantially smaller than dam cores material little attention from researchers and the methods are
made of finer and more broadly graded material. not well developed.

12
Table 7. Methods available for assessing the susceptibility of soils to soil contact erosion.

Reference Area of application Comments

Bakker (1993) Sand and gravel Threshold depending on d50 of the base soil and
filter porosity and two charts one for parallel
flow and the other for perpendicular flow to contact
Brauns & Witt (1987) Sand and gravel Very similar to Bakker (1993)
Briaud et al (1999a,b) Method developed for estimating erosion of soil at bridge piers
Fry (2005) Silt overlying sandy gravels Limiting Darcy velocity in the order of 2 × 10−2 m/s for the
cases assessed so far
EDF laboratory testing program commencing
Vaughan & Soares (1982) Silt, sand, gravel Threshold of erosion based on permeability and the smallest
particle size

Table 8. Methods available for assessing the susceptibility of embankments to erosion in concentrated leaks.

Reference Area of application Comments

Numerical modelling to predict the presence of cracking


Bui et al (2004, 2005) 2-D cross-valley and dam Shows that 2-D cross-valley modelling is
section analysis and 3-D analysis useful in assessing the locality and depth
to identify low stress zones of possible cracking
Sherard (1979), Kjaernsli et al (1992) 2D cross valley section analyses Shows low stress zones due to settlement
during construction, with examples of
these coinciding with internal erosion and
piping incidents
Detection of cracking
Attendees indicated that cross-hole BC Hydro experience with WAC Bennett
seismic, acoustic and temperature Dam for sinkhole investigations
measurement have been successful
Prediction of whether erosion will initiate
Arulanandan et al (1980), Arulanandan & Fine-grained cohesive soils Rotating cylinder tests
Perry (1983)
Chapuis (1992), Chapius et al (1996) Fine-grained cohesive soils Rotating cylinder tests
Wan & Fell (2002, 2004a,b) Cohesive and silty soils Critical shear stress can be determined
(CL-CH-SC-SM) in the Hole Erosion Test (HET) and Slot
Erosion Tests (SET)
Depends on soil classification, particle
size distribution, mineralogy, degree of
compaction and degree of saturation
Lim (2005 unpublished information Cohesive soils Rotating cylinder and HET show that the
UNSW) degree of saturation and sample
preparation influence the critical
shear stress
The HET provides the critical shear stress
at which significant erosion begins, but the
rotating cylinder tests show that some
erosion occurs at lower hydraulic stresses
The critical shear stress for dispersive
soils is affected by water chemistry
CEMAGREF (2005 unpublished) Sand-kaolin soils Testing about to begin in a modified SET

4.1.6 Initiation by concentrated leak to concentrated leaks. For each method, the reference,
Internal erosion initiating in a concentrated leak can the area of application (i.e. types of soils) and some
apply either to internal erosion in embankment or comments from workshop participants are provided.
foundation soils. Detailed comments arising from discussion in the
Table 8 is a record of the discussions which took workshop:
place at the workshop, and details the methods avail- 1. It was noted that it was necessary to clearly
able for assessing the susceptibility of embankments distinguish between the critical hydraulic shear

13
stress at which erosion begins and the rate of ero- 4.2 Continuation
sion. The Sherard pinhole test, crumb tests, and
Table 9 is a record of the discussions which took place
USDA-SCS double hydrometer test are indices of
at the workshop, and details the methods available for
dispersivity, and the general likelihood that erosion
assessing continuation of internal erosion. For each
may initiate in a soil. The results are dependent on
method, the reference, the area of application (i.e.
the chemical composition of the water used in the
types of soils) and some comments from workshop
test, with some soils showing more likely disper-
participants are provided.
sion in water with low dissolved salt content. The
Detailed comments arising from discussion in the
critical hydraulic shear stress is discussed in Wan
workshop:
& Fell (2005), and is the hydraulic shear stress in
a crack or hole in the soil at which erosion begins. 1. It was pointed out that the French Committee on
The rate of erosion can be quantified in hole and Large Dams was about to recommend a filter design
slot erosion tests, and is the mass rate of erosion method for small dams which, for widely graded
per unit hydraulic shear stress of the soil from the soils, recommends that the filter size be determined
walls of the crack or hole. The critical shear stress using the Sherard & Dunnigan (1989) method, but
and erosion rate are dependent on water quality, splitting the soil on the change of slope at the
with lower critical shear stresses and higher rates fine end of the gap grade, and on the change in
of erosion in dispersive soils with low salts content slope for broadly graded soils, rather than using the
water. more empirical approach of re-grading the soil on
2. The Briaud et al (1999 a, b) contact erosion test, the the 4.75 mm sieve before applying the filter rules.
jet erosion test (Hanson 1991, 1992; and ASTM It was agreed by Workshop participants that this
D5852-95), and flume tests (e.g. Shaikh et al was reasonable, particularly if the soil was inter-
1988a,b) all measure erosion properties, but model nally unstable. The majority of participants used
different erosion mechanisms.The erosion test used Sherard & Dunnigan (1989) or related criteria for
should be selected to model the mechanism being design and assessment of existing dams.
considered. 2. It was noted that the Vaughan & Soares (1982)
3. The critical shear stress is difficult to define in method could lead to a very fine first filter, and
laboratory tests. CEMAGREF will be using sen- in some situations, three filters might be needed
sitive equipment to detect particles of eroded soil using this method, while the Sherard & Dunni-
in the water in the slot erosion tests they will be gan (1989) method might require two filters. Given
doing. the good performance of filters designed using
4. The results from hole and slot erosion tests can be Sherard & Dunnigan (1989) and similar methods, it
used in conjunction with the hydraulics of flow in would seem unnecessary to require finer filters than
cracks and holes to assess whether erosion will ini- required by Sherard & Dunnigan (1989) in most
tiate, but the hydraulics are complicated by variable situations, particularly if the Sherard & Dunnigan
crack geometry and surface roughness and the pres- (1989) criteria were met with some margin of safety.
ence of multiple zones in the embankment which 3. There was concern by some participants that Sher-
affect the hydraulic gradients. It should be recog- ard & Dunnigan (1989) criteria are not conservative
nised that the presence of a crack or a soil with a enough for dispersive soils. An example of where
low resistance to initiation of erosion does not of erosion had occurred for filters which apparently
itself mean initiation will occur. There must be suf- satisfied the criteria was mentioned but no details
ficient erosive shear stress from the water flowing are available. Other participants had not heard of
in the crack. In some cases soil adjacent the crack an example of a dam with filters designed and
may swell and the crack may close before erosion constructed to satisfy modern filter design cri-
can begin. teria experiencing internal erosion and piping. The
5. Experience in Finland is that the water in the pores extensive study of case histories by Foster & Fell
of silts and moraines in near surface situations of (2000) supports this experience. It was noted that
dams during construction and in service freezes and Foster & Fell (2001) recommend somewhat finer
ice lenses are formed. On thawing these become a filters than Sherard & Dunnigan (1989) for disper-
zone of concentrated leakage in which erosion can sive soils. A number of participants including those
initiate. from USBR suggest doing laboratory no-erosion
6. Some participants are aware of dams where voids filter tests for important projects where dispersive
or low density zones had formed just below the soils are present.
phreatic surface. This is thought to be due to set- 4. It was noted that the excessive and continuing ero-
tlement of the soil below the phreatic surface on sion criteria proposed by Foster & Fell (1999b,
saturation. The voids or low density zones are a 2001) were based on laboratory tests simulating a
potential location for initiation of erosion. concentrated leak. It was suggested by some that

14
Table 9. Methods available for assessing continuation of internal erosion.

Reference Area of application Comments

Particle size distribution


Sherard & Dunnigan (1989) Clay-silt-sand and Based on extensive no erosion tests using a sample with a
fine gravel soils pre-formed hole and also slot and slurry tests by the USDA-SCS
Widely adopted for dam design and assessing existing dams
throughout the world
Dams constructed with filters designed using these criteria and
earlier similar criteria (e.g. USBR, 1977, 1987,2004) have
performed well in practice
Kenney & Lau (1985, 1986) Sand-gravel soils Recommends use of controlling constriction size
and Kenney et al (1985)
Foster & Fell (1999b, 2001) Clay-silt-sand-fine Used Sherard & Dunnigan (1989) test results and further no
gravel soils erosion tests
Recommended modification of Sherard & Dunnigan (1989)
design criteria, particularly for dispersive soils
Introduced the concept of excessive and continuing erosion
criteria
Opening size and particle size distribution
Lafleur et al (1989, 1993) Clay-silt-sand- Particularly applicable to broadly-graded soils; has designed
gravel soils rules for linearly graded, gap graded and concave upward
grading distributions, and separate rules for dispersive soils
Brauns & Witt (1987), Schuler & Clay-silt-sand Propose the use of probabilistic analysis
Brauns (1993, 1997) gravel soils
and Witt (1993)
Particle size – permeability
Vaughan & Soares (1982), Clay-silt-sand- Based on filter tests with flocs of the clay size soil in a dilute
Vaughan and Bridle (2004) gravel soils suspension; the floc size is determined from hydrometer tests
in the reservoir water, with no dispersant added (this test
provides the so called ‘perfect filter’)
The method potentially gives very fine filters

methods such as Lafleur et al (1989, 1993) and for assessing progression of internal erosion. For each
Schuler (1995) using opening size, percentage fines method, the reference, the area of application (i.e. types
and D95 might also be useful. of soils) and some comments from workshop partici-
5. There was a consensus that filters with more than pants are provided Detailed comments arising from
5% non plastic fines were undesirable because they discussion in the workshop:
might sustain a crack. Filters with more than 12% 1. There were a number of case studies presented
non plastic fines were highly likely to hold a crack, including Matahina Dam, Porjus Dam, Suova Dam
at least in the unsaturated condition. If the fines and Coursier Dam, where upstream zones in con-
were plastic the situation would be significantly junction with downstream transition zones and
worsened. shoulder zones had acted to reduce the flow rate
6. The ‘bucket’ or ‘sandcastle’ test, (Vaughan & through a pipe in the core. The upstream zones
Soares, 1982) in which a cylinder of the filter was had washed into the pipe to assist in controlling the
placed in a container at the density it was placed in progression process before flows became too large
the embankment, and slowly flooded to see if the for the downstream zone to discharge safely. It was
soil collapsed, was used by some participants. It was clearly important to consider these zones as poten-
noted that the degree of compaction of the filter was tial flow limiters and crack stoppers in the progres-
important, with examples known where densely sion phase when assessing the likelihood of failure.
compacted filters had not collapsed on flooding, 2. There was a consensus that sand boils in the foun-
whereas the same material loose had collapsed. It dation at the downstream toe of a dam were an
was noted that Virginia Tech was doing research on indication of a potential for failure, and they should
this topic. be treated with care. There were examples cited
e.g. Sills & Vroman (2005) of progressive ero-
4.3 Progression
sion from sand boils with headwater levels cycling
Table 10 is a record of the discussions which took place to the same or lower levels. Attendees were also
at the workshop, and details the methods available concerned at the presence of sinkholes in the floor

15
Table 10. Methods available for assessing progression of internal erosion.

Reference Area of application Comments

Backward erosion
Weijers & Sellmeijer (1993) Fine-medium sand See initiation
Method predicts initiation and progression for an unfiltered exit
Schmertmann (2000) Fine-medium sand See initiation
Method predicts initiation and progression for an unfiltered exit
Suffusion
Schuler (1993)
Rönnqvist (2005)
Concentrated leak
Wan & Fell (2002, 2004a,b) Clay-silt-sand soils HET, SET determine the rate of erosion, this can be coupled with
the hydraulics of flow in cracks or holes to allow estimation of the
rate at which a pipe will enlarge

of the reservoir, and felt that it was necessary to from workshop participants are provided. Detailed
understand the mechanism leading to their devel- comments arising from discussion in the workshop:
opment, but knew of many cases where these had
1. There is an example of breach due to a sinkhole
not progressed.
which occurred in a test embankment in Norway
3. There was a consensus that suffusion was not gen-
(6 m high zoned embankment with clay core, rock-
erally likely to lead to a piping failure, because the
fill shoulders and no filters). The embankment was
flows were unlikely to be sufficient to erode the
constructed with defects in the core, which lead
coarse soil remaining after suffusion had occurred.
to the formation of a pipe and in turn, a sinkhole
However slope instability might result from a rise
developed in the upstream side of the crest of the
in the phreatic surface level in the downstream
embankment. The sinkhole in itself did not cause
slope of the embankment due to the increase in
breach, but when the reservoir level was raised
seepage flows in the soil in which suffusion had
above the level of the sinkhole, the sinkhole filled
occurred.
with water and the dam breached.
4. Sinkholes in the dam crest and upstream of the crest
were an indication of erosion of the core, and of 4.5 Detection & Intervention
washing into the pipe of the upstream filter or other
material upstream of the core. The data available on Table 12 is a record of the discussions which took place
sinkholes seemed to show that they did not gener- at the workshop, and details the methods available
ally lead to failure of the dam by overtopping, but for the detection and intervention of internal erosion
attendees warned that for those which did fail, the incidents. For each method, the reference, the area of
evidence was washed away, so one should not be application (i.e. types of soils) and some comments
too confident. from workshop participants are provided.
5. The rate of progression of backwards erosion can Detailed comments arising from discussion in the
be restricted by the existence of layers of soil or workshop:
embankment materials into which the seepage is 1. There was a consensus that there was a need to
flowing which act as filters. If the material acts link the instrumentation and surveillance to the
as a no-erosion filter backwards erosion will not critical failure modes. It was agreed that the suc-
progress. If some erosion is possible into the mater- cess of detection and intervention depended on the
ial it may slow the process. Backwards erosion time to develop a failure, after a concentrated leak
can be very rapid when no filters are present developed in a pipe and the time available is very
(i.e. when water and eroded particles exit to the short (i.e. hours). For other breach mechanisms,
atmosphere). days or weeks might be available.
Temperature methods for analysing seepage vari-
4.4 Breach
ations are promising and gaining wider usage.
Table 11 is a record of the discussions which took place However some methods such as optical fibres were
at the workshop, and details the methods available best suited if installed in the embankment during con-
for assessing breach mechanisms caused by internal struction. Other methods required drilling of holes into
erosion. For each method, the reference, the area of the embankment to install the instruments or to provide
application (i.e. types of soils) and some comments access for temperature probes. They were therefore by

16
Table 11. Methods available for assessing breach mechanisms caused by internal erosion.

Reference Area of application Comments

Gross enlargement
Wahl TL (1998) Breach width, duration and outflow Compared various available equations to case
history data
Blais, J.P. (2005) Breach duration Validated on 11 case studies
Unravelling
Sölvig (1991) Unravelling of rockfill at the downstream Höeg et al (2004) and workshop participants indicate
toe of an embankment that Norwegian model tests have sown that the
Sölvig method is conservative
New criteria are being proposed but were not
available at the time of the workshop
Slope instability
Fell et al (2004, 2005) Instability of downstream slope Uses conventional stability analysis and estimates the
of an embankment displacement using Khalili et al (1996) or numerical
analysis to assess whether freeboard is lost
Settlement and loss of freeboard
Fry (2005) Settlement due to suffusion or backward erosion in
broadly graded materials and foundations and
embankments Up to 1 cm/year has been observed
on dykes (Fry, 2005)
Sinkhole and loss of freeboard
Foster & Fell (1999a), Database of sinkhole events
Fell et al (2004) Sinkholes historically have seldom lead to failure

Table 12. Methods available for the detection and intervention of internal erosion incidents.

Reference Area of application Comments

Detection
Dornstädter (1996,2005) Embankments and foundations Review available temperature techniques
Johansson (1996,1997,2005), Embankments and foundations Review available temperature and
Johansson et al (2000), USEPA geophysical techniques and methods for
(2000), Aufleger et al (2000) determination of flow discharge rates
Fauchard & Meriaux (2004),
Fauchard et al (2005) Embankments and foundations
Time available for intervention
Brown (2005) Embankments and interfaces between Based on expert elicitation
embankments and structures such as walls
Fell et al (2001, 2003) Time from observation of a concentrated Based on analysis of historic data
leak to failure of embankment dams
Intervention
Chopin (2005) Embankments and foundations Reviewed defects of diaphragm walls

their nature best able to measure conditions locally intervention must have been unsuccessful. The
(e.g. where leakage was observed or suspected. Care assessment of the likelihood of failure can be
must be taken in drilling holes into embankments and determined by:
grouting around casing or to backfill drill holes so as to
1. Engineering judgement, considering each of the
avoid hydraulic fracture. Dry drilling methods should
individual phases.
be used and grouting done in short stages with time
2. Quantitative risk analysis, usually based on event
for grout to cure before the next stage.
trees. Methods for doing this are described in
Brown & Gosden (2004), Foster & Fell (1999a),
4.6 Assessment of the likelihood of failure Fell et al (2004, 2005), Cyganiewicz & Smart
In order for the dam to breach, all of the phases (2000), USBR (2000) and Cyganiewicz et al
of internal erosion must occur and detection and (2005).

17
3. Qualitative risk analysis based on event trees 5.2 Initiation due to soil contact erosion
but without formal quantification e.g. Bell et al,
5.2.1 Critical hydraulic gradient
(2002).
Not a great deal of testing has been conducted to date
to determine the critical hydraulic gradient required
to initiate soil contact erosion. Suggestions for future
research include:
5 RESEARCH NEEDS
• Extrapolating Bakker (1993) charts to silt-gravel
5.1 Initiation due to suffusion materials.
• Testing the effect of seepage flow direction (e.g.
5.1.1 Soils which are susceptible to internal
upwards, horizontal, downwards).
instability
• Testing whether the critical hydraulic gradient is
Suggestions for future research include:
affected by stresses in the soil.
• Laboratory testing on a wide range of soils to • Determining the mechanism of material move-
better define the particle size distribution character- ment – can critical shear stress be applied in a
istics of internally unstable soils and to understand laboratory flume situation?
the effects of the plasticity of fines and the com- • Determining a correlation between critical hydraulic
paction of material on the likelihood of suffusion gradient and particle size distribution and other
occurring. properties such as soil plasticity and degree of
• Multi-variable discriminate analysis to better define compaction.
the boundaries between internally stable and inter- • Determining a correlation between seepage velocity
nally unstable soils. at which erosion initiates and particle size distribu-
• Investigate whether the Vaughan & Soares (1982) tion and other properties such as soil plasticity and
concept can be applied to assessing whether a soil degree of compaction.
is internally unstable. • Investigation of the effect of the contact between
the core and open joints in the foundation on the
likelihood of initiation due to soil contact erosion.
5.1.2 Critical hydraulic gradient
Not a great deal of testing has been conducted to date 5.2.2 Size and quantity of material in
to determine the critical hydraulic gradient required internal erosion
to initiate suffusion. Suggestions for future research Relating to the size and quantity of material mobilized
include: in soil contact erosion processes, suggestions for future

research include:
Testing the effect of seepage flow direction (e.g.
upwards, horizontal, downwards). • Estimating the maximum soil particle sizes which
• Testing whether the critical hydraulic gradient is are mobilised in soil contact erosion processes and
affected by stresses in the soil. the rate of their movement.
• Determining the mechanism of material movement • Testing the influence of cycles (e.g. regularly fluc-
(as this is affected by gradient, velocity, influence tuating hydrostatic load) and the rate of increase of
of turbulence). hydraulic gradient or seepage velocity on the move-
• Testing the effect of void ratio on critical ment of particles in soil contact erosion processes.
gradient. • Using numerical modelling to better understand
the movement of particles in soil contact erosion
These need to be done for a range of particle size
processes.
distributions and plasticity.

5.3 Initiation due to backward erosion


5.1.3 Size and quantity of material eroded
Relating to the size and quantity of material mobilized Suggestions for future research include:
in suffusive processes, suggestions for future research
• Laboratory testing needs to be extended to include
include:
silty sands and well graded soils including soils
• Estimating the maximum soil particle sizes which which are internally stable but do not self filter. Wei-
are mobilised in suffusive processes, the total quan- jers and Sellmeijer (1993) and Schmertmann (2000)
tity of material mobilized and the rate of their methods are based on poorly graded soils.
movement. • Testing the effect of exit condition (i.e. exit angle) on
• Using discrete element models to better under- the likelihood of initiation due to backward erosion
stand the movement of soil particles in suffusive and the likely presence of locally low effective stress
processes. conditions.

18
• Testing the effect of cohesion on the likelihood of • Determine the effect of wetting-induced swelling
initiation due to backward erosion. (While many on the ability to close a crack and stop the con-
believed that backward erosion could not develop tinuation of internal erosion (experimental tests are
in cohesive soils under gradients normally experi- required in a laboratory first, followed by numerical
enced in dams and their foundations there was not modelling).
a unanimous view).
• Investigation into the rate at which backward 5.5 Filter research (continuation of erosion)
erosion occurs. Schmertmann (2000) showed that 5.5.1 Conventional filter design methods
backward erosion can occur rapidly in laboratory Suggestions for further research relating to conven-
scale models. tional filter design methods include:
• Investigating the effects of clogging of filters by
5.4 Initiation due to a concentrated leak eroded material and chemical and bacterial deposits.
• Investigating the conditions which can cause filters
Research needs relating to the understanding of initi- to become cohesive (e.g. particle size, cement-
ation due to a concentrated leak can be separated into ing, degree of compaction, stress conditions, the
two separate issues. chemistry of circulating water and the presence of
limestone).
5.4.1 Predicting or detecting the presence of • Testing of the effect of fines content and plasticity
cracking and high permeability zones of fines on the ability of the filter to sustain cracks.
Suggestions for further research include: • Assessment of the filter criteria for widely graded
• Development and trialing of geophysical techniques core materials, including those which are internally
for locating cracks in an embankment including unstable, and those which are internally stable but
acoustic and seismic techniques. will not self filter.
• Research on the occurrence of cracks due to desic- • Assessment of case studies of filter performance for
cation, including the effect of shrinkage limit and widely graded core materials.
water content profile. • Testing of the effect of segregation of widely graded
• Research into the development of ice lenses in dam core materials on filter performance.
cores. 5.5.2 Assessment of the applicability of the Vaughan
• Using numerical models to assess the conditions and Soares so called ‘Perfect Filter’ concept
required to induce cracking and validation of these Suggestions for future research include:
against case studies where cracking is known to have
occurred. • More extensive laboratory testing to confirm the
• Research into whether the stresses in low stress applicability of the method which to date has
zones are influenced by seasonal effects including been based on limited testing. This should include
rainfall and temperature. comparison with conventional design methods and
review of case studies by both conventional and the
5.4.2 Predicting the initiation of erosion in cracks Vaughan & Soares (1982) method to see whether
and high permeability zones filters designed using conventional methods are
Suggestions for further research include: sufficiently conservative as most assume.
• More extensive laboratory testing to check the
• Using parallel laboratory testing and possibly applicability of the concept to internally unstable
numerical models to compare the different methods soils and to internally stable but non self filtering
available for determining the hydraulic shear stress soils.
(e.g. erosion function apparatus (contact erosion), • More extensive laboratory testing to determine the
jet erosion test, rotating cylinder and hole erosion uncertainty in the equations linking permeability of
test). the filter to the particle size of the filter and to the
• Linking the mechanics of erosion in open channels smallest particle retained.
and river beds to erosion in cracks in dams. • Research to assess the influence of the permeability
• Determine the effect of test scale on the results of of the downstream filter on the particle detachment
laboratory testing using numerical modelling and phenomena in the core.
back-analysis of case studies.
• Further developments of test techniques to more 5.6 Progression
precisely define the critical shear stress for cracks
and in high permeability zones and the soil charac- Suggestions for further research relating to the under-
teristics which govern this. standing of progression of internal erosion include:
• Determine a method of predicting the initiation of • Investigations into the mechanics of the size
erosion in cracks in silt-sand-gravel soil. of internal erosion pipes that can develop and

19
relation to pipes that have developed in case 5.9 Overall system
histories.
Suggestions for further research relating to the under-
• The validation of sediment transport laws used in
standing of the overall system of internal erosion
sedimentology for pipes (i.e. the ability to remove
include:
the large particles under high velocities).
• Investigation of the effect of upstream and down- • Research into the decision analysis process for
stream zones in limiting progression of internal assessing the likelihood of internal erosion for an
erosion. existing dam in quantitative and qualitative terms.
• Development of a theoretical hydraulic approach to • Development of quantification of uncertainty, use
progression phenomena including the potential for of fuzzy logic, probabilistic approaches.
turbulent flow in the pipe and porous media flow in • Refinement of event trees and fault trees for use in
the upstream and downstream zones. quantified analyses.
• Research into a multi-disciplinary approach of mod- • Refinement of decision-making criteria based on
elling progression of internal erosion – combining back-analysis of internal erosion incidents where
soil mechanics, moveable boundary hydraulics and good quality data is available.
hydraulics. • Development of surveillance and monitoring tech-
• Improving the understanding of the progression niques to be more closely targeted to identified
phase of internal erosion initiated by backward internal erosion modes of failure natural gamma and
erosion and suffusion. cross hole seismic).

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
5.7 Breach
Suggestions for further research relating to the under- The support of Electricité de France (EDF) and
standing of the breach phase of internal erosion The Institut pour la Recherche Appliquée et
include: l’Expérimentation, (IREX) for the Workshop in Aus-
sois are acknowledged. The considerable contribution
• Modelling all the phases of the process leading to of attendees to this paper is also acknowledged.
breaching and validating them on real case studies
(e.g. Teton).
• Modelling of the interaction between the rate of REFERENCES
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OF THOSEWHOATTENDED THE WORKSHOP Barker, Gregg, Electricité
de France Bartsch, Maria ,Vattenfall, Sweden Bellendir,
Evgeny, Russia Benahmed, Nadia, CEMAGREF, France Blais,
Jean-Pierre, Electricité de France Brown, Alan, Jacobs,
United Kingdom Bridle, Rodney, Consultant, United Kingdom
Chopin, Michel, Consultant, France Courivaud, Jean-Robert,
Electricité de France Cyganiewicz, John, Bureau of
Reclamation, USA Dornstädter, Juergen, GTC, Germany
Engemoen, William, Bureau of Reclamation, USA Fell, Robin,
University of New SouthWales,Australia Foster, Mark, URS,
Australia Fry, Jean-Jacques, Electricité de France Garner,
Steve, BC Hydro, Canada Gillon, Murray, DamWatch, New
Zealand Johansson, Sam, HydroResearch, Sweden Kahawita,
René, Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal, Canada Lafleur,
Jean, Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal, Canada Lopes,
Sergio, Laboratoire Central des Ponts et Chaussées, France
Marot, Didier, University GeM, UMR CNRS, France Nguyen,
Huu-Phong, Hydro-Québec, Canada Nilsson, Ake, Vattenfall,
Sweden Perzlmaier, Sebastian,TechnicalUniversity ofMunich,
Germany Reboul, Nadege, ECL, France Reiffsteck, Philippe,
LCPC, France Ronnqvist, Hans, Vattenfall, Sweden Royet,
Paul, CEMAGREF, France Sills, George, US Army Corps of
Engineers, USA Taisant, R, CNR, France Vuola, Pekka.
Finnish Environment Institute, Finland Wan, Chi Fai, GHD,
Australia
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