Abstract

An understanding of the heterogeneity of quaternary gravelly deposits is required to predict flow and contaminant transfer through these formations. In such deposits, preferential flow paths can lead to contamination at depths greater than predicted under the assumption of a homogeneous medium. The difficulties in characterizing their complex structure with conventional methods represent an obstacle for this prediction. In this study, we developed an approach relying on the use of ground penetrating radar (GPR) for the detection of sedimentary depositional units. A genetic interpretation of the radar stratigraphy allowed us to construct a distribution model of lithofacies. The study was conducted on glaciofluvial deposits underlying a stormwater infiltration basin. Two main system tracts were characterized: a top stratum (50–80 cm deep) corresponding to massive gravel and open-framework gravel, and a base stratum corresponding to trough-fill structures with associated sandy, open-framework, massive, and matrix-rich gravelly lithofacies. The knowledge of the hydraulic properties linked to each lithofacies led us to propose a hydrostratigraphic model. Based on this model, we formulated a hypothesis about the hydraulic behavior of the deposit during stormwater infiltration. Open-framework gravels can act, during complete saturation, as preferential flow paths, and capillary barrier effects may occur under variably saturated conditions. These hypotheses were tested by measuring water content variations (using time domain reflectometry probes) at three depths (0, −0.5, and −1.15 m). Experimental data show infiltration behavior that can be explained by a capillary barrier effect between the two lower probes. These results suggest that our hypothesis about hydraulic behavior is reasonable.

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