2009 – Innovative Solution to foundation piping risk at Hinze Dam

Gavan Hunter, Chris Chamberlain, Mark Foster

Hinze dam, an extreme hazard storage, is under the authority of Seqwater (Southeast Queensland) and is principle potable water storage supplying the Gold Coast. Hinze Dam Stage 3, presently under construction, involves raising the existing embankment almost 15m to a maximum height of 80m.

The foundation geology on the right abutment of the main embankment comprises of a deeply weathered sequence of greywacke and variably silicified greenstone and chert. The deeply (and variably) weathered soil profile below the right abutment  of the existing embankment presented an unacceptable piping risk for the embankment in its existing condition. Contributing factors included: 1/ the highly erodible extremely weathered greywacke and presence of continuous defects in the weathered soil mass; 2/ the extremely weathered greenstone in direct contact with highly fractured, highly permeable silicified greenstone and chert bodies aligned normal to the dam axis which provide continuous seepage paths through the foundation.

Works were required as part of the Stage 3 raise to address the foundation piping risk. Significant issues for design included: 1/ the depth of weathering extended up to 25to 40m into the foundation.; 2/ extremely weathered and highly erodible greenstone was present below the right abutment of the embankment and extended down to the lower abutment some 50 to 60 m below the existing dam crest; 3/ the reservoir level could not be drawn down during construction and the probability it would be near full supply level during the works  was high; and 4/ the variability of strength in the greenstone form soil to extremely high strength presented challenges for excavation.

The options assessed to address the piping risk included a plastic concrete cut-off wall and an upstream blanketing option. The plastic concrete cut-off wall (220m long and up to 50m deep) and deep filter trench was the selected option.  The cut-off wall had been successfully completed ahead of time and below budget. The innovative design required excavation through earthfill core of the embankment under full reservoir level and use of a purpose built trench cutter (by Bauer Foundations Australia) for the variable excavation conditions.

Keywords: dam safety, piping, risk assessment, cut-off wall.

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