American Society of Civil Engineers

Geotechnical Properties of Cemented Sands in Steep Slopes

by Brian D. Collins, (corresponding author), (Research Civil Engineer, Western Earth Surface Processes Team, U.S. Geological Survey, 345 Middlefield Rd., MS973, Menlo Park, CA 94025) and Nicholas Sitar, (Professor, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Univ. of California, Berkeley, 449 Davis Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720.)

Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, Vol. 135, No. 10, October 2009, pp. 1359-1366, (doi:

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Document type: Journal Paper
Abstract: An investigation into the geotechnical properties specific to assessing the stability of weakly and moderately cemented sand cliffs is presented. A case study from eroding coastal cliffs located in central California provides both the data and impetus for this study. Herein, weakly cemented sand is defined as having an unconfined compressive strength (UCS) of less than 100 kPa, and moderately cemented sand is defined as having UCS between 100 and 400 kPa. Testing shows that both materials fail in a brittle fashion and can be modeled effectively using linear Mohr-Coulomb strength parameters, although for weakly cemented sands, curvature of the failure envelope is more evident with decreasing friction and increasing cohesion at higher confinement. Triaxial tests performed to simulate the evolving stress state of an eroding cliff, using a reduction in confinement-type stress path, result in an order of magnitude decrease in strain at failure and a more brittle response. Tests aimed at examining the influence of wetting on steep slopes show that a 60% decrease in UCS, a 50% drop in cohesion, and 80% decrease in the tensile strength occurs in moderately cemented sand upon introduction to water. In weakly cemented sands, all compressive, cohesive, and tensile strength is lost upon wetting and saturation. The results indicate that particular attention must be given to the relative level of cementation, the effects of groundwater or surficial seepage, and the small-scale strain response when performing geotechnical slope stability analyses on these materials.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Sand (soil type)
Soil cement
Slope stability
Triaxial tests
Soil properties