Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Title

Characterization of the Engineering Properties and Economic Potential of the Transitional Clay Unit of the Ripley Formation, Northeast Mississippi

Date of Award

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

M.S. in Engineering Science

First Advisor

Joel S. Kuszmaul

Second Advisor

Nolan B. Aughenbaugh

Third Advisor

Charles S. Swann

Abstract

Expansive soils, throughout Mississippi and the U.S., have long been a source of problems within the engineering and construction industries, leading to billions of dollars in damage annually. Along with being a source of problems, the clays throughout Mississippi are also of economic importance, being mined for a variety of uses. In this study, the engineering properties of the transitional clay facies of the Ripley Formation are studied, to characterize the swell potential of the transitional clay, and to assist with the evaluation of the possible commercial uses of the soil. The transitional clay is an Upper Cretaceous unit characterized as being, medium to dark gray, fossiliferous, laminated to bedded, and micaceous. The unit was sampled across areas of Chickasaw, Pontotoc, and Union Counties of Mississippi. Sample sites across the three counties were included in the study so that the spatial and stratigraphic variability at different scales within the sampled site were investigated. Various laboratory tests were performed to document the extent of the soils engineering properties and swell potential. Atterberg limits and potential volume change tests were the main testing methods, along with the use of published empirical methods of predicting swell potential. To assess the economic potential of the unit, the Atterberg limit values of the samples were compared against other clays within Mississippi that have been mined for a variety of uses. The results of the testing show that the engineering properties of transitional clay facies, within the study area, to be highly variable. A large majority of the samples, however, are classified as having high to very high swell potential. Any construction projects within the outcrop belt of the transitional clay facies should have localized, site-specific, shrink-swell investigations performed to assess the need for mitigation of swelling soils. The high variability of the properties of the transitional clay also leads to a wide range of potential economic uses. Further investigations must to be performed, along manufacturer specific guidelines, to be able to fully assess the economic potential of these clays.

Concentration/Emphasis

Geological Engineering

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