Effect of Clay Mineralogy and Aluminum and Iron Oxides on the Hydraulic Conductivity of Clay-Sand Mixtures1

N. Alperovitch, I. Shainberg, R. Keren and M. J. Singer
Institute of Soils and Water, Agricultural Research Organization The Volcani Center, P.O. Box 6, Bet-Dagan, Israel
Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources, University of California Davis, California 95616
1 Contribution No. 1274-E 1984 series from the Agricultural Research Organization, The Volcani Center, Bet-Dagan, Israel.

Abstract: Changes in hydraulic conductivity and clay dispersivity of clay-sand mixtures (four reference smectites and Fithian illite) as a function of concentration (0.01 M Cl and distilled water) and sodium adsorption ratio (SAR ≤ 30) of the percolating solution were measured. In addition, the effect of sand percentage, sand particle size, and addition of AlCl3 and FeCl3 on the hydraulic conductivity of the mixtures were measured.

Clay dispersion and migration out of the 3% clay columns was substantial. The clay dispersed only in the distilled water system; dispersion increased with an increase in the percentage of exchangeable Na and was about the same for the Wyoming montmorillonite and Fithian illite. Conversely, the clay swelled in the 0.01 M Cl solution. The swelling of the montmorillonites increased in the order: Upton, Wyoming = Belle Fourche, South Dakota > Polkville, Mississippi > Otay, California, and was higher than that of the Fithian illite. The swelling and dispersion of the clay accounted for the changes in hydraulic conductivity.

Mixtures treated with FeCl3 and AlCl3 were leached with NaCl-CaCl2 solutions until the pH of the effluent exceeded 6.5. The composition of the exchangeable phase was then determined by the SAR of the leach solutions. At pH > 6.5, the polycations hydrolyzed and were present as the hydroxy-polymer species. The hydraulic conductivity of the mixtures decreased as exchangeable Na increased, but the decrease was less than in untreated mixtures, AlCl3 was more effective in maintaining hydraulic conductivity than FeCl3. In montmorillonite clay with an ESP of 20, less than 5% of a complete Al-interlayer was enough to prevent a reduction in hydraulic conductivity. Packets in the day systems tested explain the high efficiency of the Fe and Al polycations.

Key Words: Aluminum oxide • Exchangeable sodium percentage • Hydraulic conductivity • Illite • Iron oxide • Montmorillonite • Salinity • Sand

Clays and Clay Minerals; October 1985 v. 33; no. 5; p. 443-450; DOI: 10.1346/CCMN.1985.0330511
© 1985, The Clay Minerals Society
Clay Minerals Society (www.clays.org)