Bentonite mixed with varying quantities of sand is currently of widespread interest as engineering liners for water containment and waste disposal. However, the alternative use of pumice, widespread in many volcanic regions, has been less studied and requires further characterization of geotechnical properties and performance prior to its extensive use. The objective of this study was to determine and compare the compaction and swelling characteristics of sand-bentonite and pumice-bentonite mixtures using available geo-materials from Turkey. Standard Proctor compaction tests and constant volume swell tests were carried out using mixtures with four different bentonite contents (15, 20, 25, 30%) and three different sand and pumice grain size ranges (2.00–1.00; 1.00–0.50; 0.50–0.25 mm). The results indicate that pumice-bentonite mixtures have lower maximum dry unit weights, higher optimum moisture contents and greater swelling potentials than equivalent sand-bentonite mixtures. Important differences occur in the swelling potentials of the sand and pumice mixtures with respect to grain size whereby sand-bentonite mixtures show increased swelling with coarsening grain size, in contrast to the pumice–bentonite mixtures which showed a decrease. These differences are attributed to the amount of grain-size-dependent connected pore space that can be filled during bentonite expansion and the presence of dissolvable salts in the pumice. It is concluded that locally available pumice material could be used to replace sand in engineering bentonite seals, despite some differences in their geotechnical properties.

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