The use of geosynthetic clay liners (GCLs) as secondary barrier layers in environmental applications such as landfills and other impoundment facilities is becoming increasingly more popular among the engineering community, particularly at project sites where earthen materials suitable for barrier layers may not be locally available. Design engineers for these environmental applications are becoming well versed at performing equivalency calculations comparing the performance of geosynthetic materials to their earthen counterparts. For barrier layers, these equivalency calculations would normally compare the mechanical and hydraulic properties of the GCL to a compacted clay liner. Of these properties, the ability of the hydraulic properties to withstand degradation due to permeation of contained leachates is of prominent concern. Such is the case in alkaline environments. The leachate may adversely affect the GCL by minimizing swelling, decreasing adsorption capacity and increasing the permeability of the material. If the effect on the material is significant, the usefulness of this product is diminished, possibly voiding any equivalency comparison to compacted clay liner performance. The design engineer must fully understand what effect, if any, specific leachates will have on the GCL being considered. Accordingly, appropriate performance testing with the leachate in question must be performed during the design phase and confirmed during construction through quality assurance testing.
This paper will present the design considerations, required laboratory testing and onformance tests for a recent project that contained an alkaline leachate. Through appropriate testing, a contaminant resistant GCL was shown to possess desired hydraulic properties in the presence of the alkaline leachate.