Permeability changes in layered sediments: Impact of particle release

Theresa Blume, Noam Weisbrod, John S. Selker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


One of the mechanisms of sudden particle release from grain surfaces in natural porous media is a decrease in salt concentration of the permeating fluid to below the critical salt concentration. Particle release can cause a change in hydraulic conductivity of the matrix, either by washing out the fines and thus increasing the pore sizes or by the plugging of pore constrictions. The phenomenon of permeability changes as a result of particle detachment was investigated in a series of column experiments. Coarse and fine sediments from the Hanford Formation in southeast Washington were tested. Columns were subject to a pulse of highly saline solution (NaNO3) followed by a fresh water shock causing particle release. Outflow rates and changes in hydraulic head as well as electric conductivity and pH were monitored over time. No permeability decrease occurred within the coarse matrix alone. However, when a thin layer of fine sediment was embedded within the coarse material (mimicking field conditions at the Hanford site), permeability irreversibly decreased to 10% to 20% of the initial value. Evidence suggests that most of this permeability decrease was a result of particles detached within the fine layer and its subsequent clogging. An additional observation was a sudden increase in pH in the outflow solution, generated in situ during the fresh water shock. Because layered systems are common in natural settings, our results suggest that alteration between sodium solution and fresh water can lead to particle release and subsequently reduce the overall permeability of the matrix.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)466-474
JournalGround Water
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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