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Potential use of calcareous mudstones in low hydraulic conductivity earthen barriers for environmental applications.

Environmental technology (2014-02-18)
T B Musso, F M Francisca, T B Musso, T B Musso
ABSTRACT

Earthen layers play a significant role in isolating contaminants in the subsurface, controlling the migration of contaminant plumes, and as landfill liners and covers. The physical, chemical and mineralogical properties of three calcareous mudstones from the Jagüel and Roca formations in North Patagonia, Argentina, are evaluated to determine their potential for the construction of liners. These mudstones were deposited in a marine environment in the Upper Cretaceous-Paleocene. The tested specimens mainly comprise silt and clay-sized particles, and their mineralogy is dominated by a smectite/illite mixed layer (70-90% Sm) and calcite in smaller proportion. Powdered mudstone samples have little viscosity and swelling potential when suspended in water. The hydraulic conductivity of compacted mudstones and sand-mudstone mixtures is very low (around 1-3 x 10(-10) m/s) and in good agreement with the expected hydraulic behaviour of compacted earthen layers. This behaviour can be attributed to the large amount of fine particles, high specific surface and the close packing of particles as confirmed by scanning electron microscope analysis. The tested materials also show a high cation exchange capacity (50-70 cmol/kg), indicating a high contaminant retardation capability. The calcareous mudstones show satisfactory mineralogical and chemical properties as well as an adequate hydraulic behaviour, demonstrating the potential use of these materials for the construction of compacted liners for the containment of leachate or as covers in landfills. These findings confirm the potential usage of marine calcareous mudstones as a low-cost geomaterial in environmental engineering projects.

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