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otechnique 62, No. 6, 479490 [http://dx.doi.org/10.1680/geot.9.P.094] Zwanenburg, C. et al. (2012).


Failure of a trial embankment on peat in Booneschans, the Netherlands

C . Z WA N E N B U R G , E . J. D E N H A A N , G . A . M . K RU S E a n d A . R . KO E L E W I J N A trial embankment 6 m high was built on peat in the Netherlands, and brought to failure. The aim was to test whether innovative sensor technology could detect incipient failure in time. However, the data generated also made it possible to conduct a geotechnical assessment of stability. The paper discusses the relation between the parameters derived from laboratory tests, eld measurements and behaviour observed in the eld. Problems encountered in the standard triaxial testing of peat samples are discussed, as the samples tend to fail in tension. A trial pit through the failed embankment showed that there were wide tension cracks in the peat layer, indicating that the peat layer failed in tension, at least locally. However, horizontal movement dominates the overall failure mechanism. As an alternative to triaxial testing, direct simple shear (DSS) testing for the assessment of peat parameters is considered. The results of the DSS tests correspond well with eld measurements and the back-analysis of the failure. On a construit, aux Pays-Bas, une digue dessai de 6 m ` sa rupture. Lobjet e tait de haut sur de la tourbe, jusqua tablir si la technologie innovante de de tection e tait en de tecter a ` temps lamorc mesure de de age de la rupture. es produites ont e galement permis Toutefois, les donne valuation ge otechnique de la stabilite . deffectuer une e La communication examine le rapport entre les para` tres de rive s dessais en laboratoire, de mesures effecme es sur le terrain, et comportements releve s a ` pied tue ` mes rencontre s dans les doeuvre. On discute des proble chantillons de tourbe, les essais triaxiaux standards de chantillons ayant tendance a ` se rompre lorsquils sont e ` tension. Une fosse dessai pratique e dans la soumis a faillante a montre la pre sence de larges ssures digue de de contraintes dans la couche de tourbe, en indiquant ainsi la rupture de la couche de tourbe sous leffet de la ` le chelon local. Toutefois, le tension, tout au moins a canisme de rupture ge ne ral est domine par un mouveme ment horizontal. En alternative aux essais triaxiaux, on galement des essais a ` cisaillement simple pour examine e valuation des parame ` tres de la tourbe. Les re sultats le des essais de cisaillement simple correspondent parfaite es sur place ainsi quaux re tro ment aux mesures effectue analyses de la rupture.

KEYWORDS: embankments; failure; full-scale tests; laboratory tests; organic soils

INTRODUCTION Despite the considerable experience of water authorities, occasional dyke failures cannot be excluded. An example is the failure of a dyke near Wilnis in the Netherlands in 2003 (Van Baars, 2005; Van et al., 2008). After the Wilnis incident, methods were sought to improve the assessment of dyke condition, including the application of modern sensor technology. The IJkdijk (calibration dyke) project was initiated to test the viability of modern sensor technology for the assessment of actual dyke strength. A full-scale trial embankment was built and brought to failure, as discussed by Abdoun et al. (2010). The results of this test and other studies will lead to an early warning system for dyke stability in the near future. The test provides the opportunity to study the stability of an embankment in relation to peat behaviour. This paper describes the induced failure of the trial embankment, and compares the mobilised shear strength and failure mode with the laboratory tests and eld measurements. The subsurface underneath the trial embankment includes a peat layer, the strength of which is a major factor controlling the stability of the embankment. As shown by, among others, Yamaguchi et al. (1985) and Den Haan & Kruse (2006), parameter assessment using standard triaxial tests on peat samples provides unrealistically high strength parameters. This holds especially for the friction angle, 9. This complication was also encountered in the design of the trial embankment.
Manuscript received 24 July 2009; revised manuscript accepted 22 September 2011. Discussion on this paper closes on 1 November 2012; for further details see p. ii. Deltares, Delft, The Netherlands.

The second and third sections of this paper describe the test and subsurface conditions, followed by a description of the failure in the fourth section. The fth and sixth sections set out the laboratory test results and eld measurements. The seventh section discusses the mobilised shear strength along the failure plane, and makes a comparison with laboratory and eld measurements. The nal section presents conclusions. TEST SET-UP Figure 1 shows an aerial photograph of the trial embankment. A small strip of land, 100 m wide and 750 m long, situated alongside a canal (which can be seen in the top lefthand corner of Fig. 1), was available for construction of the

Fig. 1. Aerial photograph of trial embankment during test, and location of site. Canal at top left-hand corner




Table 1. Properties of construction material: sand Property General properties Sand median d50 : mm Uniformity coefcient, d60 /d10 Maximum void ratio, emax Minimum void ratio, emin After construction Volume weight, : kN/m3 Void ratio, e Relative density, Re ( emax e)=( emax emin ) Water content, W 18.74 0.56 0.71 0.125 0.22 2.57 0.86 0.44 Value

test embankment. A small dyke borders the canal, resulting in an additional boundary condition for the tests, since it should not be damaged. The area has been in agricultural use, and has been a nature reserve for the past 15 years. Figure 2 shows a cross-section of the trial embankment. The embankment consisted of a sand core with a clay liner, which is typical for dykes constructed since the 1960s in the Netherlands, and a crest 6 m above ground level, representative for a larger river defence. To facilitate failure, the landward slope was made steeper (1:1.5) than permitted by current standards. The design of the test included ve stages, shown in Fig. 3. Stage 1 consisted of raising the water level between the canal dyke and the trial embankment (see Fig. 1). The maximum water level was limited by the height of the dyke to 3 m above ground level. A stepwise excavation of a ditch at the toe of the landward slope reduced stability further. In stage 2, the ditch was excavated down to 1 m below ground level. In stage 3 (shown in Fig. 1), excavation continued until the ditch reached a sand layer about 23 m below ground level. During and after excavation, groundwater ow into the ditch was low. Stage 4 consisted of pumping water into the sand core until it reached a height of two thirds of the core. This increased the weight of the embankment and reduced the strength of the sand core. The trial embankment failed in stage 4, as anticipated. However, to ensure the failure of the embankment, an additional step (stage 5) was optional in which the sand core was fully saturated and containers on top of the embankment were lled with water. Fig. 1 shows the empty containers on the crest of the embankment. Since the trial embankment failed in stage 4, stage 5 was not required. Before construction, the grass cover and top 10 cm of the subsurface were removed in order to ensure good contact between the embankment and the subsurface. The embankment was erected in steps of 0.51 m height. Table 1 presents the characteristics of sand and the state parameters for the sand in the embankment 1.5 m above datum level. The sand was not densied, except by dump trucks in the initial stages of construction up to +2 m above datum, after which the sand was applied by hydraulic cranes.
Slope 1:25 Infiltration system Clay cover Slope1:15 Sand core 32 . 607 1733 277 432 16 5 6 Datum level 23 37

Table 2 gives the characteristics of the locally derived clay for the liner. The clay liner had to be compacted in order to permit water lling of the sand core The clay was compacted by a roller in 0.30.5 m layers. A constant-volume core container was used for compaction control; Table 2 gives the average of eight measurements taken from different levels along the clay cover. The strength of the sand was derived from triaxial compression tests. The samples were prepared for three different levels of relative density, Re 0.44, 0.49 and 0.56. For each level, three samples were tested. The value for the friction angle, 9, ranges from 30.98 for Re 0.44 to 31.78 for Re 0.49 and 31.98 for Re 0.56. It should be noted that the tested samples have a lower density, indicated by a lower value for Re than found in the trial embankment, as given by Table 1. Extrapolation of the test data to Re 0.71 gives 9 33.28, which is used in design and analysis calculations. The strength of the clay cover was determined by direct simple shear (DSS) tests. Samples of the original clay were densied until the volume weight and water content corresponded to the eld values after densication, as given by Table 2. In the DSS apparatus, the samples were consolidated under a vertical load of 10 kN/m2 and sheared to failure. For four tests an average undrained shear strength of su 31.2 kN/m2 was found. SUBSOIL PROPERTIES A total of 33 cone penetration tests (CPTs) were conducted and 22 boreholes were made using the Begemann sampling system. Fig. 4 shows a typical CPT at the test
Table 2. Properties of construction material: clay Property Original Value

Fig. 2. Cross-section of trial embankment

5 5 1 4 2 3 Stage 1: raising water level to 3 m above ground level Stage 2: excavation to 1 m below ground level Stage 3: complete excavation soft soil layers Stage 4: raising water level in sand core to 2/3 sand core height Stage 5: filling sand core completely and filling containers on top

Volume weight, : kN/m3 Water content, W Liquid limit, wl Plasticity index, Ip Void ratio, e After densication Volume weight, : kN/m3 Water content, W Void ratio, e

15.75 0.60 0.86 0.57 1.66

Fig. 3. Stages of the experiment

17.3 0.44 1.17


U2: kPa 0 Rf : % 8 6 4 2 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 20 40 60 80


qc: MPa 10 Clay 20 Peat


Depth: NAP ml

40 Sand 50

60 qc 70 U2

Fig. 4. Typical subsoil prole at test location CPT S37

location. The stated depth is related to datum level, the Dutch NAP reference, which corresponds to approximately mean sea level. The ground level at the location ranges from NAP 0.9 m to NAP 1.1 m. Fig. 4 also shows CPT interpretation, together with data from an adjacent borehole. The original soil build-up at the site consisted of Pleistocene aeolian ne sand at the base, followed by Holocene peat dominated by sedge and wood, with a thin intercalated clay interval in most of the area. At the centre of the trial embankment the thickness of the peat is approximately 3.0 m, diminishing to 1.5 m to the north and 2 m to the south. The surface consists of a 0.2 m to locally 1.0 m thick clay layer, overlying the peat. Just below the top of the Pleistocene sand an Allerd soil horizon occurs, and is covered by less than 0.2 m loose sand. This soil horizon hampers vertical drainage in the sand. Figure 5(a) shows the unit weight for the samples taken
: kN/m3 10 12 14 16 18 20 0 20 W

from a typical borehole. Values lower than the water density are found in the lower half of the peat layer. This might be caused by the loss of some pore water from large pores during sampling, or the presence of gas bubbles, which is common in this type of peat. Fig. 5 shows increasing water content (W) and loss on ignition (N) with increasing depth in the peat layer, while unit weight falls slightly with depth. Before and during construction of the trial embankment, the hydraulic head in the sand layer and pore pressures in the peat layer were measured. Fig. 6 shows the initial proles for total stress, pore pressure and effective stress before construction started. The measurements, which were conducted in the summer season before the start of construction, indicate a phreatic level of NAP 1.9 m, which is below the top of the peat layer. The hydraulic head in the sand layer was measured for a longer period, and a seasonal uctuation was found between NAP 1.4 and 1.7 m. Measurements did not show a correlation between the water table in the nearby canal and pore pressure in the sand and peat layers. The low unit weight of the peat and non-hydrostatic pore pressure development in depth meant that there was a minor fall with depth of the effective stress in the peat layer. Figure 6 also shows the vertical pre-consolidation stress ( v 9c ) derived from six constant rate of strain (CRS) tests taken from one borehole. Fig. 7 claries the distribution of v 9c in the peat layer, showing the results of all the CRS and oedometer tests. Because of variations in the thickness of the top clay, the vertical effective stress level may differ for samples taken from the same depth in different boreholes. To account for this effect, Fig. 7(b) shows the overconsolidation ratio (OCR) for each of the tests. Here, the 9 , with v 9 representing the vertical OCR is dened as v 9c = v effective stress in the eld, estimated on the basis of the unit weight of the soil in the borehole from which the sample was taken, and the measured hydraulic head in the sand. Fig. 7 shows a scatter of v 9c at about the phreatic level in the range 2238 kN/m2 , with an OCR in the range 2.54 and an extreme value around 8. At a lower level in the peat layer, a small increase in v 9c is found with depth, with an OCR in the range 1.81.9. THE OBSERVED FAILURE The pumping of water into the sand core resulted in the failure of the trail embankment (Fig. 8). Inltration started on 27 September 2008 at 12.00 noon. The inltration system consisted of six inltration tubes with a diameter of 15 cm,
N 40 60 02 04 06 08 10

Clay Peat

Depth: NAP m

4 Sand 5

Fig. 5. Soil characterisation for borehole 12: (a) unit weight, ; (b) water content, W; (c) loss on ignition, N



100 200 : kN/m2 300 400 500 600

Clay Peat

Depth: NAP m


Effective stress

Pore pressure

Total stress

Vertical pre-consolidation stress, vc Location of pore pressure transducers

Fig. 6. Soil stresses at borehole 12

2 vc: kN/m 200 300




vc / v 40 60


2 3 4

. 5 (a) (b)

Fig. 7. (a) Pre-consolidation stress; (b) OCR of tested peat samples

Fig. 8. The embankment after failure

interconnected by a manifold and placed in the sand core 50 cm above ground level. There was also a tube in the top soil layer, close to the centreline of the embankment. Inltration started through this lower tube. The six inltration tubes were then activated until failure occurred. There

was a pause in lling from 15.02 to 15.41 hours and another at 15.58 hours to alleviate the rapid rise in inltration pressures. Failure occurred at 16.02 hours. The observed failure was essentially translational, with the peat layer and overlying soil moving into the ditch. The maximum horizontal displacement, perpendicular to the embankment, was approximately 5 m. The core sand subsided into the soft clay and peat layers, and moved outward. The displacement of the sand core caused slumping of the clay liner. The far side of the ditch halted the sliding mass. The width of the sliding plane, parallel to the embankment, was 40 m. Figure 9 shows a cross-section of the failed section of the embankment by reference to the original section. The information in Fig. 9 follows from the inspection of the walls of the trial pit, and CPT and borehole data. Fig. 10 shows the location of the trial pit. Most of the lateral deformation witnessed in the trial pit was found at the contact of the peat and underlying sand layers. The peat and top clay units had slid, largely intact, into the excavated ditch upon failure. The horizontal part of the sliding plane runs along the sand/peat intersection. Since the sand/peat intersection is not a perfectly at level, contact between the peat and underlying sand was found to be locally intact, whereas elsewhere in the pit the sand/peat intersection was, at least at the top of the original sand layer, cut off. There was extensive local fragmentation of the base of the peat layer locally; elsewhere it was intact up to the contact with the sand. Furthermore, it was found that the top of the sand layer was loose and saturated, and appeared liqueed. A thin shear zone, or shear plane, involving both sand and peat, had apparently developed upon failure. The trial pit showed that wide vertical cracks had developed in the peat and top clay layer. Tension cracks, 40 cm wide, were found, lled with clay liner: see Fig. 11. The tension cracks resolved at the base in sub-horizontal shear planes inclining in a downslide direction, just above the contact with the sand. The location of the tension cracks is consistent with a movement pattern seen in video recordings of the failure. Steeply dipping and opposing shear planes in the embankment core underneath and landward of the original crest of the embankment were found to extend into the clay and peat underneath. Cumulative offset along the shear planes extended several decimetres. The shear planes demarcated a zone where the core had squeezed into the clay and

Depth: NAP m

Initial movement: Initial downward movement of a wedge of dyke material into the subsurface by translation along fault 1 and 2, with lateral translation along a basal shear plane. The space created below the intruding wedge along fault 1 is accommodated by minor squeezing of peat. (Arrows indicate translation of blocks, indicate sense of fault movement)

Block translation: The intruding wedge pushes the subsurface and overlying dyke segment as a coherent block towards the ditch.

Sand fill Sand fill

Peat Peat Sand (b)

Sand (a)

Final configuration and position of the exposures Excavated area 1 Excavated area 2 Faults Failed clay liner Clay-filled extension cracks Datum Sand fill Pre-failure Top clay terrain surface Clay liner, pre-failure Initial and final translation surface Initial translation surface Drain (remnants)

Clay liner

Collapse of the dyke material and stretching of the underlying peat: The coherent block collapses with stretching and minor squeezing of the underlying peat, coincident with loss of support from the sidewalls (after video reconstruction). Clay liner clay enters the extension cracks in the peat, and is subsequently squeezed by inertia of the moving mass.

Sand fill


Peat Sand 2m Approx. 20 m Boundary sand/peat 2 m pre-failure

Sand (c)



Fig. 9. Sketch of failure mechanism: (a) initial movement; (b) subsequent movement; (c) nal collapse; (d) nal conguration




Location pore pressure transducer Location borehole Excavated ditch Container row S40 Failure plane Trial pit Location inclinometer Location CPT

W51 S37 B12

Levee 100 ~40

Fig. 10. Top view: dimensions in m

0 2 1 0 0 2


Horizontal displacement: m 010 015 020




Clay cover Sand core Top clay Peat Sand

Depth: m NAP

1 2 3 4 5 6 0: start test 2: after flling basin and excavating ditch 3: after further excavating ditch 4A: during pause in infltration 4B: infiltation stop, failure imminent

Fig. 12. Horizontal displacement perpendicular to embankment measured by inclinometer; positive values indicate displacement away from embankment

Fig. 11. Vertical cracks in peat layer lled with clay liner

to the embankment at different stages during the test. Displacement prior to the test is shown as stage 0. Stage 4A represents the conditions at the start of stage 4 and 4B just before failure. The maximum displacement upon failure exceeded the maximum range of the inclinometer. The measurements show a lateral displacement corresponding very well to the observations in the trial pit. The measurements also show that approximately 16 cm deformation at the start of the failure was not detected by visual inspection. Abdoun et al. (2010) provide details of the displacement measurements. LABORATORY TESTS As part of the laboratory test programme, there were 22 single-stage triaxial compression tests. Both isotropic and anisotropic consolidation were applied at several stress levels, ranging from the current eld stress to the estimated eld stress after construction of the test embankment. The eld value for K0 is obtained from K0 CRS tests. This type of test makes it possible to measure the development of the horizontal effective stress (see Den Haan & Kamao, 2003). Seven K0 CRS tests on peat samples found K0 ranging from 0.38 to 0.19, with an average value of K0 0.26. The K0 condition in the consolidation phase of the triaxial tests was attained by rst applying an isotropic stress increment, followed by a deviator increment. Fig. 13 shows the results. Practically all the samples covered by Fig. 13 reach the

peat. As seen in Fig. 9, this resulted in a major reduction in the thickness of the peat layer over a length of 2 m. The observations of the deformation resulted in the following hypothesis about the order of events. During the failure, core material was squeezed along inclined faults, shear planes, into the peat layer, which translated in a horizontal direction. Subsequently the translated mass of the dyke collapsed, and tension cracks developed in the peat, which were then partly lled with clay from the liner. The tension crack lling was later compressed locally by compression due to the sliding mass encountering the opposite end of the ditch. This compression was strongest at the top of the peat layer (see Fig. 11). Figure 12 shows the development of horizontal deformation during failure, as measured by an inclinometer (see Fig. 10 for location). Fig. 12 shows displacement perpendicular


200 180 160 140 120 K0 026 60 q 3p 80 h 063 v 230


q: kN/m2

h: kN/m2


100 80 60 40 20 0 0 200 400 600 p: kN/m2 800 1000 1200

20 h 067 v 0 0 20 40 60 2 v : kN/m (a) 80 100


Fig. 13. Effective stress paths of CIU and CAU tests on peat samples

zero radial effective stress condition the tension cut-off with inclination 3:1 through the origin and are then forced to remain there, making failure ill dened. This phenomenon is typical for peat samples (see Yamaguchi et al., 1985; Den Haan & Kruse, 2006; Mathijssen et al., 2009). This phenomenon could be a result of tensile strength provided by the plant remain bres in the peat (Cola & Cortelazzo, 2005; Landva, 2007). However, the bre tensioning does not explain the similar behaviour of organic clays, lacking such a bre framework, stressing the need for more thorough understanding. The very high triaxial compression strength is not likely to be representative of bulk behaviour in a peat layer withstanding embankment loading. The inherent anisotropy of the peat, the initial stress state anisotropy, and the rotation of the principal stress states during embankment loading are likely to produce effects that combine to reduce the average strength to a value well below the triaxial compressive strength. Den Haan & Kruse (2006) describe a graphical procedure to reduce the measured undrained shear strength of peat in triaxial compression. The initial part of the effective stress path, in which pore pressures are still increasing, extends to the tension cut-off line, resulting in an undrained strength, su , that disregards the effects of dilation during the latter part of the test. Figure 14 shows the results of 10 direct simple shear (DSS) tests conducted on peat samples. The samples shear at a constant height, representing undrained behaviour. Fig. 14 shows the v 9 combination at failure. Horizontal sliding planes are assumed at failure. Then, using the simple conventional interpretation, a line through the data points gives drained parameters c9 and 9. Using the least-squares method, the best t is found for c9 2.3 kN/m2 and 9 32.38, or 9 33.98 if the v 9 curve is forced through the origin. Table 3 shows the interpretation in terms of undrained shear strength. The undrained shear strength is normalised by the vertical consolidation stress applied in the test, vy . Comparison of (su /vy )peak found for triaxial compression with the value found for DSS tests indicates strong anisotropy in the strength of peat. The brous nature of peat and organic clay may explain the anisotropy. Mesri & Ajlouni (2007) give an overview of the (su /vy )peak ratios for brous peat presented in the literature. The values (su /vy )peak 0.61 for triaxial compression and 0.46 for DSS determined here correspond well to this overview. Den Haan

h: kN/m2



0 0 01 02 03 (b) 04 05 06

Fig. 14. Results of DSS tests on peat samples

Table 3. Undrained shear strength ratio su /vy found in laboratory measurements su /vy Triaxial DSS Peak 0.61 0.46

& Kruse (2006) report similar values for Dutch peat samples. Leroueil et al. (1990) advocate the use of the undrained shear strength at large strain the USALS approach, in which large strain is dened as an axial strain of 15% in triaxial testing. Fig. 13 shows that, after reaching the TCO line, each triaxial test indicates a further increase in mobilised shear strength. This means that no realistic values for (su /vy )USALS can be achieved. The analysis in this paper is focused on peak strengths. FIELD MEASUREMENTS The failure of the trial embankment was induced shortly after its construction. The presence of excess pore water pressure therefore plays an important role in determining subsoil strength. In addition to measurement of the pore water pressure, the interpretation of CPTs gives an impression of how strength developed during the construction of the trial embankment. For safety reasons, CPTs could not be


ZWANENBURG, DEN HAAN, KRUSE AND KOELEWIJN qt qc 1 a u2 , su qt v Nkt (1)

carried out before the end of the test. It was only 4 days after the failure took place that CPTs could be conducted through the embankment. This causes some uncertainty about the actual subsoil strength during the test. Figure 15 shows an interpretation of CPT data before and after the test. The su values are derived from the CPT data using
qc: MPa 08

04 05 0 05 10



Original soil profile

Depth: m NAP


15 20 25 30 35 S40 S37 40 Location transducer W51



su: kPa 20 05 0 05 10 40 60 80 100

15 20 25 30 35 40 S40, through failure plane S37, before construction From laboratory tests: s su 061, * u p 046 p From estimated vc after construction: su p 061, su p 046


Fig. 15. su proles calculated from CPT data: S37 conducted before construction of embankment; S40 after nishing test through failure plane

where qc is the cone resistance, u2 is the water pressure measured above the tip of the cone, a 0.86 for the cone type used and Nkt is the bearing factor. From experience, Nkt 12.6 is used. Figure 10 shows the location of the CPTs. CPT S37, also shown in Fig. 4, took place before the construction of the trial embankment. After the completion of the test, CPT S40 was conducted through the embankment at a distance of 19.4 m from S37. Fig. 15 also shows laboratory results combining the su /vy ratios discussed earlier with the preconsolidation stresses presented by Fig. 6. The laboratory results correspond closely to CPT S37, which represents the initial conditions. The DSS test results seem to agree slightly better than the triaxial test results. CPT S40 shows that strength was low at the transition between the peat and sand layer. This corresponds to the location of the failure plane. The difference in strength between CPT S37 (prior to the construction of the trial embankment) and CPT S40 (after completion of the test) is considerable. The increase in strength observed in the CPTs before and after construction is explained by the consolidation of the subsoil. CPT S40 was made four days after the failure, and the presence of the failure plane may have further accelerated consolidation. Fig. 16 shows the hydraulic head measurements from transducer W51 in the lower part of the peat layer at a depth of 2.87 m below datum, near the location of CPT S37 (see Figs 10 and 15 for the location). Fig. 16 shows the pore pressure reaction in each construction phase, with a rapid increase in hydraulic head. Between the construction phases some reduction in hydraulic head was recorded, which is attributable to consolidation. The measurements indicate considerable pore pressure development during construction, leading to a high excess pore water pressure at the start of the test. Fig. 16 zooms in on measurements during the test. It is found that step 1 has little or no inuence on the hydraulic head measured by transducer W51. Both the initial excavation (step 2) and the further excavation (step 3) lead to a hydraulic head increase that stabilises after some time. During step 4 (lling the sand core), the hydraulic head initially decreases until the inltration discharge is increased, leading to a rapid increase in hydraulic head. The initial hydraulic head decrease could be related to visually observed water outow from the subsoil to the excavation. After increasing the inltration discharge, the outow stopped. An instantaneous drop in hydraulic head indicates the failure in Fig. 16. Den Haan & Feddema (2012) discuss nite-element simulations of the failure of the IJkdijk trial embankment. The nite-element analysis, in an estimate of the effective stress level at the location of CPT S40 at the depth of the sliding plane, gives v 9 40 kN/m2 : Assuming OCR 1 at the end of construction, and applying the su /vy values earlier, leads to an estimate of the undrained shear strength of peat at the start of the test: su 18.4 kN/m2 for su /vy 0.46 (simple shear strength) and 24.4 kN/m2 for su /vy 0.61 (triaxial compression strength). Fig. 15 compares these values with the CPT data. It should be noted that S40 was made through the failed embankment, approximately at the location of the original toe. With stress conditions in the subsoil changing from underneath the crest to the excavated ditch, S40 is assumed to represent average conditions along the sliding plane. It follows from CPT S40 that su 19.6 kN/m2 at the shear plane location. The soil is strongly remoulded in the

Depth: m NAP


Construction period 6 5 4 3 65 2 1 0 - 1 - 2 50 - 3 - 4 0 10 20 30 40 Time since start of construction: days 50 60 0 10 20 30 40 Time since start of test: h 50 60 Test


Hydraulic head: NAP m

Start filling core (stage 4)

60 Raising water level at the front (stage 1) 55 Start excavation (stage 2) Further excavation (stage 3)

Accelerate filling

Moment of failure

Fig. 16. Hydraulic head development at base of peat layer recorded by transducer W51

failure zone, and, owing to the time interval between the failure and CPT S40, some consolidation has occurred. The su value cannot therefore be compared directly with the peak values found in the laboratory tests.

STABILITY ANALYSIS From the eld and laboratory measurements, several different values for the undrained shear strength of the peat layer are found. Table 4 summarises results from ve different approaches, as discussed in the previous sections. An extended nite-element method (FEM) analysis of the IJkdijk failure is given by Den Haan & Feddema (2012). In this paper the validity of the values presented in Table 4 is checked by a limit equilibrium analysis used to calculate the stability of the trial embankment for the different su values. The stability is calculated for stage 3, without failure, and for stage 4 when failure did occur. The conguration of the failure indicates that failure did involve more than a single continuous failure zone. Ladd (1969) suggests a working method for stability assessment of embankments, in which the sliding plane is divided into an active part, a direct shear part and a passive part (abbreviation ADP). Parameter assessment in this method is based on the different conditions for the material in each section, with triaxial compression tests for the active part, shear tests for the direct shear part and triaxial extension tests for the passive part. This method is generally accepted for the

design of embankments on soft soil (Leroueil et al., 1990). Here an adapted approach is given for the observed failure of the test embankment. The active part of the observed failure was largely in the sand of the embankment core, and constituted an assembly of shear zones. The direct shear part of the failure was a horizontal plane at the base of the peat layer. The passive part of the ADP sliding plane was absent in the conguration, since the geometry did include an excavation at a short distance from the toe. Such a ditch is common for Dutch water-retaining embankments. Following Ladds method, the strength of the embankment is best derived from triaxial compression tests, while strength parameters for the underlying peat layer follow from DSS tests. Figure 17 shows a two-dimensional schematisation of horizontal sliding. Equilibrium is found when the horizontal force Fh , which is the summation of the total horizontal earth pressure and water pressure, exceeds the shear resisClay cover Sand core Fh S 14 m


Fig. 17. Squeezing approach for trial embankment

Table 4. Results for ve different cases for assessment of undrained shear strength for peat layer Case 1 2 3 4 5 Description (su /vy )peak from triaxial testing in combination with pre-construction v 9c (su /vy )peak from triaxial testing in combination with actual v 9c estimated from FEM calculations (su /vy )peak from DSS testing in combination with pre-construction v 9c (su /vy )peak from DSS testing in combination with actual v 9c estimated from FEM calculations su from eld testing su : kN/m2 15.2 24.4 11.5 18.4 19.6


ZWANENBURG, DEN HAAN, KRUSE AND KOELEWIJN area. The factor of safety is dened in equation (8) as the ratio of the resisting shear force S and the driving horizontal force Fh : Table 7 shows the calculation results. Cases 1 and 3 underestimate the stability of the trial embankment, since they predict failure in stage 3, whereas in this stage no failure was observed in the test. Case 2 overestimates the stability, since it predicts SF . 1.0 for both stages, whereas the trial embankment did fail in stage 4 in the test. Cases 4 and 5 t the observed failure. The calculation results indicate that the consolidation during construction led to a relevant increase in su , resulting in underestimation of the stability by cases 1 and 3. Only the stability calculated using the DSS test results (case 4) ts the observed failure if the effect of consolidation on the development of su is included. Using the triaxial test results (case 2) results in overestimation of the stability condition of the embankment in the eld test. The shear strength derived from the eld tests (case 5) compares well with the value found by the DSS tests (case 4). A sensitivity analysis was carried out to check the validity of the calculation results. Fig. 18 shows the results of the sensitivity of the four most relevant parameters. These four parameters are related to the embankment properties 9and , sand ) and the active earth pressure coef(su clay cover , s cient for the peat layer, a peat : For each parameter, the stability is calculated for the ve cases for stages 3 and 4. Fig. 18(a) shows the sensitivity of the analysis for su clay cover , which contributes to the shear resistance along the sides. As is to be expected, an increase in su clay cover leads to an increase in SF. Fig. 18(b) shows that an increase in sand leads to a minor reduction in SF; an increase in sand causes an increase in Fh as well as an increase in Ssc : 9and Fig. 18(c) shows the inuence of s 9and : An increase in s leads to a reduction in Fh (a decreases for increasing 9 according to equation (5)) as well as in an increase in Ssc : For the range for which s 9and is to be expected (308 , s 9and , 358) Fig. 18(c) shows that its inuence on the calculation result is small. The same holds for the parameters su clay cover and sand : Figure 18(d) shows the inuence of the active earth pressure coefcient for peat, a peat : Equation (3) gives the expression for a as a function of 9: It should be noted that a 1 is found for 9 08, and a 0 is found for

tance S at the potential sliding plane. Since the width of the failure, parallel to the trial embankment, B, is relatively small (B 40 m), a two-dimensional approach (plane strain) is not sufcient. Friction along the failed mass, perpendicular to the trial embankment, has a considerable contribution to the forces working on the failed mass. The horizontal equilibrium, based on the total forces working on the failed mass, is described by the equations X a 3 v Fh B 3 (2) 9 w h   9 a tan2 45 (3) 2 (4) Sbottom B 3 L 3 su n v 9 tan 9d Asc , n 1 sin9 (5) Ssc

Sptc Aptc 3 su , S FS Fh

Scc Acc 3 su

(6) (7) (8)

S Sbottom 2 Ssc Scc Sptc

where Fh is the total earth pressure; a is the active earth pressure coefcient; B is the width, parallel to the trial embankment (B 40 m); h is the height of an individual soil layer (see Fig. 2); Sbottom is the shear resistance along the bottom failed soil mass; L is the length of the sliding plane, perpendicular to the trial embankment (see Fig. 17); n is the neutral earth pressure coefcient; Ssc , Sptc and Scc are the shear resistance along the side perpendicular to the trial embankment for the sand core, peat and top clay, and clay cover respectively; Asc , Aptc and Acc are the supercial area perpendicular to the trial embankment of the sand core, peat and top clay, and clay cover respectively; S is the total shear resistance; and FS is the factor of safety. The horizontal force Fh is found in equation (2) by summation of the active earth pressure and water pressure in each layer. Table 5 summarises the required soil parameters, as discussed in the previous sections. The value for a is found from equation (3). Table 5 gives the value for 9 applied in equation (3) in brackets. These values originate from the DSS tests on the peat and clay samples. For the sand of the embankment itself, 9 from triaxial testing is used. Since limited tests on the top clay layer are available, and the top clay layer is a very thin layer that makes only a small contribution to the stability, the value for su top clay is taken to be equal to su peat : Interpolation of w given in Table 6 gives the water pressure needed for equation (2). The maximum shear resistance, S, is found by summation of the shear resistance along the base and the sides of the failed mass. The resistance of the clay and peat layers is found by multiplying the contact surface area of the sliding mass by the relevant su values, as in equation (7). The friction along the contact areas in the sand of the embankment itself is found by integrating equation (5) over the

Table 6. Relevant water pressure in stages 3 and 4 Depth: m above datum level w : kN/m2 Stage 3 2 1 1.84 2.87 0 0 42.3 87.2 Stage 4 0 23.9 43.6 90.0

Table 5. Material properties for the different layers Layer Clay cover Sand core Top clay Peat : kN/m3 17.30 18.74 15.93 10.09 su : kN/m2 31.19
y {

9: degrees 33.2

a (given by equation (3)) 0.376 (9 27.08) 0.292 (9 33.28) 0.309 (9 31.98) 0.284 (9 33.98)

For sand below the water table in stage 4, 20.1 kN/m3 is applied. y For the thin top clay layer, su peat is applied. { For su peat , the ve different cases from Table 4 are applied.


Table 7. Stability calculation for different su values for stages 3 and 4 Case su : kN/m2 Fh : kN 1 2 3 4 5 15.2 24.4 11.5 18.4 19.6 12 958 12 958 12 958 12 958 12 958 Before lling (stage 3) S: kN 10 793 16 573 8425 12 783 13 541 FS 0.83 1.28 0.65 0.99 1.04 After lling sand core (stage 4) Fh : kN 15 724 15 724 15 724 15 724 15 724 S: kN 10 722 16 502 8353 12 712 13 470 FS


0.68 1.05 0.53 0.81 0.86

18 16 14 12 SF 10 08 06 04 02 0 10 20 30 (a) 18 16 14 12 SF 10 08 06 04 02 0 10 20 30 40 sand: degrees (c) Case 1, stage 3 Case 2, stage 3 Case 3, stage 3 Case 4, stage 3 Case 5, stage 3 50 60 40 50 60 su clay cover : kN/m2

18 16 14 12 SF 10 08 06 04 02 14 16 18 sand: kN/m3 (b) 20 22

18 16 14 12 SF 10 08 06 04 02 0 02 04 06 a peat (d) Case 1, stage 4 Case 2, stage 4 Case 3, stage 4 Case 4, stage 4 Case 5, stage 4 08 10 12

Fig. 18. Results of the sensitivity analysis for: (a) su

clay cover ;

(b) sand ; (c) s 9and ; (d) a


9 908. For a decrease in a ( increase in 9) Fh decreases, leading to an increase in SF. The calculations shown in 9eat 33.98, which is Table 7 are based on a peat 0.284, p found in the DSS tests. As discussed earlier, ve large values for p 9eat and therefore low values for a peat are found by triaxial testing. Fig. 18(d) shows that for low values of a peat the conclusions drawn from Table 3 are still valid; only cases 4 and 5 predict stability in stage 3 and failure in stage 4, as observed in the test. Case 2 still overestimates the stability, whereas cases 1 and 3 underestimate the

stability. When p 9eat , 208, a peat . 0.49, the conclusions drawn from Table 5 are no longer valid. Then only case 2 predicts a stable situation for stage 3 and failure in stage 4, as observed in the test. The laboratory tests discussed earlier indicate that values as low as p 9eat 208 are not expected. CONCLUSIONS A 6 m high trial embankment was constructed on peat and brought to failure. Horizontal displacement of a 2.5 m



p9 isotropic effective stress for triaxial conditions ( ( v 9 2 h 9 )=3) qc cone resistance qt corrected cone resistance (see equation (1)) q deviatoric stress for triaxial conditions ( v 9 h 9) Rf friction ratio, ratio of sleeve friction to cone resistance S shear force (equation (2)) su undrained shear stress u2 pore pressure measured above tip of cone W water content ( Mw /Ms ) wl liquid limit volume weight a vertical strain a , n active horizontal earth pressure coefcient, neutral earth pressure coefcient stress h 9 horizontal effective stress v 9 vertical effective stress v 9c vertical pre-consolidation stress, eld value vy vertical consolidation stress applied in laboratory test w water pressure shear stress (kN/m2 ) 9 friction angle

thick peat layer underneath the trial embankment dominated the mainly translational failure, with a failure plane at the boundary of the base of the peat and the underlying sand layer at about 3 m below ground level. The stability of embankments is often based on the assumption of a single continuous (circular or similar) sliding plane comprising both the active and passive zones, as in the Bishop analysis. For practical applications, triaxial compression tests are used for parameter assessment, including those for peat. The full-scale test, however, shows that stability assessment of an embankment on a peat substratum would be improved by incorporating distinct horizontal sliding. The analysis of the observed failure shows that a clear differentiation between active and shear sections, with adapted parameter derivation, is a good and relevant approximation for failure on soft soil, as suggested by Ladd (1969). Such an analytical stability analysis has been given and discussed. The observed failure of the embankment corresponds with failure calculated with the parameter values derived from DSS test measurements for peat. These DSS parameter values also correspond with the values derived from in situ measurements. The embankment failure test shows that peak strengths derived from triaxial compression tests overestimate the mobilised strength along the sliding plane in peat. It was found that all peat samples fail in tension in triaxial compression tests, and it is therefore unclear whether the failure mechanism in that test is sufciently representative for determination of parameters for deformation behaviour at the application scale. The DSS-derived parameter values perform better, which may well be due to the nature of the deformation induced in DSS tests, which corresponds better with the shear deformation found to be dominant in the embankment failure. The strong anisotropy in the undrained shear strength ratio su /vy of most peat also favours the use of DSS tests on vertically cored samples. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The authors would like to thank the Dutch Ministry of Public Works, Rijkswaterstaat, the landowner, Staatsbosbeheer, and the IJkdijk foundation for making the full-scale tests possible. NOTATION
A B c9 d50 d60 /d10 e emax , emin Fh Ip K0 L Ms Mw m1 N Nkt NAP OCR supercial area width of failed soil mass, parallel to trial embankment cohesion sand median uniformity coefcient void ratio maximum and minimum void ratios horizontal earth pressure (equation (2)) plasticity index ratio of horizontal effective stress to vertical effective stress ( h 9 = v 9) length of sliding plane, perpendicular to trial embankment mass of solids mass of water mass of solids after heating to 5008C for 4 h loss on ignition ( (Ms m1 )/Ms ) bearing factor (see equation (1)) reference datum level, approximately mean sea level over-consolidation ratio, v 9c = v 9

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