2017 – Sheet Piles: Driving a Solution to Piping Risk

Tom Ridgway, Chris Topham, Aaron Brimfield

A significant number of dams across Australia are of earthen construction and may be susceptible to internal erosion of their earth core, also known as piping. In January of 2016, during an annual inspection of the Tarraleah No 1 Pond Levee it was found that the embankment was experiencing significant seepage at the toe. Further investigations found actively developing piping holes through the embankment. To better understand the condition of the dam, HydroTasmania’s remote monitoring trailer was deployed to provide telemetered seepage data to further understand the developing issue. It was found that the leakage was increasing dramatically, and carrying suspended core material, resulting in the need for prompt resolution to protect the embankment from further loss of material. A sheet piling wall was installed in the centre of the embankment to cut off the flow of water through the embankment. After the installation of the sheet piling wall, post works monitoring showed the seepage through the embankment reduced to virtually zero, only peaking in rainfall events. This paper outlines the investigation and management of the incident, and the mitigation measures put in place from the time of identification including the use of a sheet piling wall to mitigate a developing piping failure. The paper will conclude with the outcomes of the work and how a similar solution could be utilised for other dam owners in a piping event.

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