Unsaturated Flow Beneath Tailings Impoundments

by David B. McWhorter, Prof.; Dept. of Agricultural and Chemical Engrg., Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, Colo.,
John D. Nelson, (M.ASCE), Prof.; Dept. of Civ. Engrg., Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, Colo.,

Serial Information: Journal of the Geotechnical Engineering Division, 1979, Vol. 105, Issue 11, Pg. 1317-1334

Document Type: Journal Paper


Using technology developed for flow through porous media for applications in other disciplines, equations were developed to permit computation of seepage rates from tailings impoundments. Seepage is shown to take place in three distinct stages. The first stage comprises a period during which a wetting front progresses downward from the impoundment. The second stage commences when the wetting front contacts either a phreatic surface or an impermeable boundary. The third stage begins when the groundwater mound contacts the bottom of the impoundment. During the third stage flow occurs laterally away from the area beneath the impoundment. Example computations are presented for an impoundment with and without a liner. Particular conclusions regarding the variation of seepage rates depend on the boundary conditions of the situation being analyzed. Seepage rates increase almost linearly during the first two stages and decrease after the third stage has been reached.

Subject Headings: Water storage | Seepage | Unsaturated flow | Porous media flow | Computing in civil engineering | Water table | Permits | Mine wastes

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