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Distribution, Origin, and Hydraulic Influence of Fractures in a Clay-rich Glacial Deposit
Canadian Geotechnical Journal (1995)
  • Larry McKay, University of Tennessee - Knoxville
  • J. Fredericia
In the unconsolidated clay-rich glacial deposits underlying a site in southwestern Ontario, fractures and root casts greatly influence hydraulic conductivity and groundwater flow. The fractures are predominantly vertical and have visible oxidation staining from surface to a depth of 6 m. Root casts commonly occur along fracture surfaces in the upper 3 m, but can also occur as holes in apparently unfractured blocks. The fractures are believed caused mainly by dessication during past periods of low water table. This hypothesis is supported by a decrease in fracture density with depth and the presence of a stiff crust, presumably caused by desiccation-induced consolidation. The random pebble fabric and faint layering indicate deposition in a calm lacustrine environment, which precludes the possibility of the fractures having been caused by overriding ice. Fractures were found below the depth of oxidation staining (6 m) but most of these appear to have been caused by stress-relief due to the excavation and subsequent drying. In the upper 3 m the fractures and root casts are responsible for field-measured hydraulic conductivity values that are up to 3 orders of magnitude greater than measured in the laboratory for samples of the unfractured matrix. High values of field-measured hydraulic conductivity, seasonal head variations greater than 0.5 m, and high tritium content all persist below the depth of root casts, indicating that hydraulically conductive fractures do exist to depths of at least 6 m and possibly as great as 12–15 m, which is well below the depth of oxidation staining. However, there is some uncertainty in this assessment of the extent of hydraulically conductive fractures because of the sensitivity to small leaks in the piezometer installations.
  • clay,
  • glacial,
  • fractures,
  • desiccation,
  • hydraulic conductivity
Publication Date
December, 1995
Citation Information
Larry McKay and J. Fredericia. "Distribution, Origin, and Hydraulic Influence of Fractures in a Clay-rich Glacial Deposit" Canadian Geotechnical Journal Vol. 32 Iss. 6 (1995)
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