AbstractThe hydraulic performance of geosynthetic clay liners (GCLs) comprising anionic polymer–enhanced bentonites (EBs), or EB-GCLs, based on permeation with 500 mM NaCl and 167 mM CaCl2 at an average effective stress of 27 kPa and hydraulic gradients of ∼300 was evaluated. The EBs included powdered sodium bentonite (NaB) enhanced with one of seven anionic polymers, including linear, noncrosslinked poly(acrylic acid) (PA) with low, medium, and high molecular weights, sodium carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) with either low viscosity or high viscosity, a covalently crosslinked sodium polyacrylate, and an in situ polymerized bentonite polymer composite. The NaB was enhanced with polymer at mass loadings of 5%, 8%, or 10% using dry-sprinkling, dry-mixing, and/or wet-mixing methods. Hydraulic conductivity tests at a low hydraulic gradient (∼35) also were conducted to determine the effect of seepage forces. Overall, the hydraulic performance of the EB-GCLs to the NaCl solution was better than that to the CaCl2 solution. Dry sprinkling (DS) with PA generally provided the best hydraulic performance, with hydraulic conductivity values based on permeation with 500 mM NaCl and 167 mM CaCl2 of 1.3×10−11 and 4.0×10−11  m/s, respectively, for the high-molecular-weight PA added at 5% via DS and 2.9×10−11 and 4.7×10−11  m/s, respectively, for the medium-molecular-weight PA added at 8% via DS. The CMC viscosity grade did not affect the hydraulic conductivity of the EB-GCLs. All EB-GCLs eluted polymer during permeation, regardless of mixing method or polymer type. Polymer elution was correlated with preferential interaggregate flow paths in multiple EB-GCL specimens, indicating the importance of polymer retention in maintaining low hydraulic conductivity of EB-GCLs. Because standard termination criteria for the measurement of the hydraulic conductivity of conventional unenhanced GCLs (e.g., as per current ASTM standards) do not address the potential impact of polymer elution from EB-GCLs, caution should be exercised when adapting these criteria to measure the hydraulic conductivity of EB-GCLs such as those evaluated in this study.

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