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2nd International Conference on Transport, Environment and Civil Engineering (ICTECE'2013) Sept.

25-26, 2013 Phnom Penh (Cambodia)

Engineering Properties of Soft Organic Soil


Underlying Dredge Fill Areas of Dhaka,
Bangladesh
Md. Anisuzzaman, and Arifuzzaman
Filling material is dumped directly upon the marshy low
land. After a certain time, the organic content beneath the
previous surface water is decomposed and produces a soft
organic clay layer. This very soft organic clay layer may cause
excessive settlement problem to the structures having shallow
foundation on the top filling layer.

AbstractOver the past 45 years, Dhaka city has experienced a


rapid growth of urban population. This high population increase
demands rapid expansion of the city. Unfortunately, most parts of the
Dhaka city having competent subsoil for building construction are
already exhausted. As a result, different new areas are being
reclaimed by both government and private agencies by using dredged
fill from nearby river sources. Sub-soil investigation has been carried
out in some selected areas within Dhaka city. It is found that top
filling layer is non-plastic fine sand. A very soft organic layer exists
below the filling layer of highly plastic and compressible. Laboratory
tests have been also performed in order to determine the index
properties, organic matter content, shear strength properties,
compressibility characteristics of soils collected from such areas.

KeywordsDredge fill, organic content, compressible, shear


strength, soft organic soil.

I. INTRODUCTION

VER the past 45 years, Dhaka city has experienced a


rapid growth of urban population and it will continue in
the future due to several unavoidable reasons. Hence,
most of the areas of Dhaka city have already been occupied.
As a result, different new areas are being reclaimed inside and
near Dhaka city by both government and private agencies.
General practice for reclaiming such areas is to fill low lands
(ditches, lakes etc.).
In most cases, the practice for developing new areas is just
to fill low land by dredge fill materials. Different filling
procedures are in practice to develop such land. One of them
is to carry soil by vehicles from remote sources and manually
dumped at the filling site. Due to huge traffic congestion, most
widely used method is hydraulic filling procedure.
In most cases, the dredged material is almost silty sand with
high fines content [1]. The presence of fines in hydraulic fill
means greater compressibility and greater difficulty in
compaction of the fill. Fines also reduce permeability and
hence the rate of drainage is slow. Therefore consolidation
rate is also slow [1]. Since Dhaka city exists in seismic Zone 2
of Bangladesh [2]. This silty sand layer may liquefy if an
earthquake of sufficient magnitude occurs in future.

Fig. 1 Locations of study areas on Dhaka city map.

As well as, it may cause geotechnical problems such as


negative skin friction to the pile foundation. Negative skin
friction produces a drag load which can be very large for long
piles. Johannessen and Bjerrum (1965) [4], and Bozozuk
(1972) [3] reported measurements of drag loads that exceed
the allowable loads that ordinarily would have been applied to
the piles in case of marine clay.
Some studies have been carried out to understand the
characteristics of dredge fill layers of Dhaka city [1]. Those
studies mainly focused on the liquefaction problem/potential
of such areas. Khan and Ferdous (2004) [5] investigated the

Md. Anisuzzaman, Masters Student, Faculty of Geological Engineering,


University of Padjadjaran, Indonesia (e-mail: anisuzzaman.ru@gmail.com).
Arifuzzaman, Lecturer, Department of Civil Engineering, UITS, Dhaka,
Bangladesh.

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2nd International Conference on Transport, Environment and Civil Engineering (ICTECE'2013) Sept. 25-26, 2013 Phnom Penh (Cambodia)

properties of similar soil of Khulna city and proposed


foundation alternatives for that area. Similar investigations
may be conducted for the reclaimed area of Dhaka city.
It is clear that this very soft clay layer, in reclaimed areas
demand special attention for designing foundation system on
or through it. So, it is felt necessary to carry out research to
know the characteristics of the soft organic clay layer of such
reclaimed areas and propose suitable alternatives for
foundation systems on such soil.

B. Properties of Organic Soil:


Just below the filling sandy layer, a very soft layer of
thickness varies from 0.5 to 7.0 m exists. This soft soil is dark
black in colour with organic content. Uncorrected SPT Nvalue of this layer varies from 1 to 2.
Physical and Index Properties
It has been found that specific gravity of the organic layer
varies from 2.25 to 2.55. Mean grain size (D50) and fines
content (Fc) of organic layer shows constant value 0.010 mm
and 100%, respectively. The physical and index properties of
organic clay are summarized in Table 2.
It has been found that natural moisture content and dry unit
weight of soft organic layer varies from 28 to 72% and 4.7 to
9.6 kN/m3, respectively. This result indicates that moisture
content is very high and varies in large range. As well as, dry
unit weight of this soft organic soil is also very low. It has
been found that Organic content (OC) of the soft organic clay
at Mirpur-12 and Khilgaon areas vary from 4.7 to 9.4%, and
6.7 to 9.6%, respectively.
Atterberg's Limits test has been performed on organic soil
samples at Mirpur-12 and Khilgaon to determine liquid limit,
plastic limit and liquidity index. It has been presented in Table
2. It has been found that top filling layer is non-plastic sand.
Liquid limit, plastic limit and plasticity index of organic layer
vary from 45 to 192%, 20 to 129% and 18 to 63%,
respectively which are highly plastic. Soft organic layer has
been classified by Unified Soil Classification System (USCS).
Figure 4 presents the position of the soft organic clay samples
on Casagrande plasticity chart. It is seen that soils are varying
from OL (medium compressibility and organic silt) to OH
(highly compressibility and organic clay).

However this paper presents the followings:


a) Sub-soil characteristics of dredge fill and soft organic
layer of selected reclaimed areas.
b) Possible hazards like: excessive settlement, negative
skin friction, and earthquake induced liquefaction
etcetera that may occur due to presence of soft
organic layer.
II. EXPERIMENTAL PROGRAM
Both field and laboratory investigations were performed at
the Mirpur-12 and Khilgaon of Dhaka region of Bangladesh.
These locations have been selected based on the previous data
and importance of the area. For the purpose of collecting both
disturbed and undisturbed sample three boreholes at Mirpur12 and four boreholes at Khilgaon were carried out at close
interval in all selected location. Disturbed sample were
collected and SPT-N value were recorded at every 1.5 m
depth interval up to 21 m. Undisturbed sample were collected
from black layer having organic content.
Laboratory investigation in terms of Specific gravity, Sieve
analysis, Organic content test, Atterbergs limit test,
Unconfined compression test and One-dimensional
consolidation tests have been calculated in order to know the
index properties, strength properties and compressibility
properties of soil.

Strength Properties
Unconfined compression tests have been conducted on
undisturbed samples collected from these selected areas. Table
3 shows the summary of unconfined compression test result. It
is found that natural moisture content of the study areas varies
from 28 to 72%.Unconfined compressive strength and failure
strain of organic clay layer of Mirpur-12 varies from 16 to 50
kPa and 13 to15 %, respectively. Whereas unconfined
compressive strength and failure strain of organic layer of
Khilgaon varies from 6 to 58 kPa and 9 to15%, respectively.

III. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION


A. Properties of Filling Soil

In most cases, the dredged material is almost silty sand with


high fines content. It is seen that depth of filling layer varies
1.5 to 5.5 m from Existing Ground Level (EGL). The
uncorrected SPT N-value of filling layer varies from 1 to 9.
Typical borelogs of the study areas are presented in Fig. 2.
Variation of uncorrected SPT N-value with depth is presented
in Fig. 3.

Compressibility and Swelling Properties


One-dimensional consolidation tests have also been
conducted on undisturbed soil samples collected from these
selected areas. Typical e-logP curves have been presented in
Fig. 5. It is seen that the elastic rebound is very low. Table 4
presents the one-dimensional consolidation test results. It has
been found that initial void ratio (eo), compression index (Cc)
and Recompression index (Cr) of soft clay layer vary from
1.50 to 3.88, 0.44 to 1.25 and 0.05 to 0.44, respectively.
The coefficient of consolidation (cv) varies from 0.20 to
10.89 m2/yr. It is also seen that eo and Cc is very high that is
similar to the properties of organic soil. It indicates that
excessive settlement may occur to the structures having on it.

Physical and Index Properties


It has been found that the value of specific gravity of the
sand of the filling layer varies from 2.61 to 2.69. The physical
and index properties of filling sand are summarized in Table
1. It has been found that mean grain size (D50) and fines
content (Fc) of the sand of the filling layer vary from 0.150 to
0.180 mm and 17.4 to 27.6%, respectively.

29

2nd International Conference on Transport, Environment and Civil Engineering (ICTECE'2013) Sept. 25-26, 2013 Phnom Penh (Cambodia)

Mirpur-12
BH-1

Depth(m)
0

Khilgaony
BH-1

BH-2

BH-2

BH-3

BH-4

12

15

18

21

Filling sand

Grey soft silty clay

Soft organic clay

Dense fine sand

Clayey silt

Loose sandy silt

Fig. 2 Typical borelogs of different study areas.

S P T
0

1 0

A
A
A
A
A

5
Depth from EGL (m)

- v a l u e
2 0

3 0

1 0

1 5

2 0

Fig. 3 Variation of SPT-N value with depth.

30

1
1
1
2
2

,
,
,
,
,

B
B
B
B
B

H
H
H
H
H

1
2
3
1
2

2nd International Conference on Transport, Environment and Civil Engineering (ICTECE'2013) Sept. 25-26, 2013 Phnom Penh (Cambodia)
TABLE I PHYSICAL PROPERTIES OF FILLING SAND

Location

BH No./Sample No./Depth (m)

Mean grain size, D50 (mm)

BH-1/D-1/1.5
BH-2/D-1/1.5
BH-1/D-2/3.0

Mirpur-12
(A-1)
Khilgaon
(A-2)

Fines content, Fc (%)

0.180
0.180
0.150
0.180
0.170

BH-2/D-3/4.5
BH-3/D-2/3.0

23.6
23.6
27.6
17.4
21.7

TABLE II PHYSICAL PROPERTIES OF SOFT ORGANIC CLAY

Location

BH No./Sample
No./Depth(m)

wn
(%)

OC
(%)

d
(kN/m3)

LL
(%)

PL
(%)

PI
(%)

Classification
(USCS)

OH
BH-1/UD-1/5.0
59
28.5
4.7~9.4
146
100
46
BH-2/UD-1/4.0
28
13.5
4.8~5.9
192
129
63
OH
OL
BH-1/UD-1/5.5
42~67
8.2
6.7
48
20
28
BH-1/UD-2/7.0
64
13.6

56
30
26
OH
Khilgaon
BH-2/UD-1/5.5
37
13.1

57
27
30
OH
(A-2)
BH-2/UD-2/7.0
35~43
4.3

41
26
15
OL
BH-3/UD-1/5.5
40
9.0
9.2
54
30
24
OH
BH-3/D-4/6.0

79
51
28
OH
BH-3/UD-2/7.0
62~72
12.7
7.0
63
30
33
OH
Note: wn = Natural moisture content; OC = Organic content; d = Dry density; LL = Liquid limit; PL = Plastic limit; PI = Plasticity index; OH = High
compressibility and organic clay; OL = Medium compressibility and organic silt.
Mirpur-12
(A-1)

TABLE III STRENGTH PROPERTIES OF SOFT ORGANIC CLAY

d
su
f
qu
wn
(%)
(kPa)
(kPa)
(%)
(kN/m3)
59
4.7~9.4
16
8
15
Mirpur-12
(A-1)
BH-2/UD-1/4.0
28
4.8~5.9
50
25
13
BH-1/UD-1/5.5
42~67
6.7
10~33
5~16.5
13
BH-1/UD-2/7.0
64

6
3
13
Khilgaon
BH-2/UD-1/5.5
37

58
29
10
(A-2)
BH-2/UD-2/7.0
35~43

12~58
6-29
14~15
BH-3/UD-1/5.5
40
9.2
36
18
12
BH-3/UD-2/7.0
62~72
7.0
11
5.5
9~12
Note: wn = Natural moisture content; d = Dry density; qu = Unconfined compressive strength; su = Undrained shear strength; f
BH No./Sample
No./Depth (m)
BH-1/UD-1/6.5

Location

Consistency
Very
soft

Very
soft

= Failure strain.

TABLE IV COMPRESSIBILITY AND PERMEABILITY PROPERTIES OF SOFT ORGANIC LAYER

Location
Mirpur-12
(A-1)

BH No./Sample
No./Depth (m)
BH-1/UD-1/5.5
BH-2/UD-1/4.0
BH-2/UD-2/6.0

eo

Cc

Cr

cv
(m2/yr)

1.50~3.70
2.85~3.88

0.44~1.25
0.77~1.07

0.16~0.44
0.29~0.32

0.34~3.86
0.30~5.08

0.73

0.13

0.25~4.32

2.02

BH-1/UD-1/5.5
2.92
0.97
0.10
1.20~2.08
BH-3/UD-1/5.5
1.72
0.60
0.08
0.57~1.02
BH-3/UD-2/7.0
2.82
1.15
0.11
0.20~10.89
BH-4/UD-1/5.5
1.57
0.55
0.05
1.05~3.83
Note: eo = Initial void ratio; Cc = Compression index; Cr = Recompression index; cv = Coefficient of consolidation
12 0

Plasticity index, PI (%)

Khilgaon
(A-2)

80

U -line

A -line
CH, OH

MH, OH

40
C L,O L

M irpu r-1 2
K hilga on

M L ,O L

50

10 0
15 0
200
L iquid lim it, LL (% )
Fig. 4 Position of the soft organic cohesive soil samples on Casagrande plasticity chart.

31

Void ratio, e

2nd International Conference on Transport, Environment and Civil Engineering (ICTECE'2013) Sept. 25-26, 2013 Phnom Penh (Cambodia)

improvement technique/alternative foundation systems for


such sub-soil condition.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Authors are grateful to the Department of Civil Engineering
of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology
(BUET), Dhaka & Bank Mandiri, Indonesia for giving
support for conducting this research (BRTC, 2008). Authors
are also grateful to Dhaka Soil, Dhaka for providing necessary
data.

1
Mirpur-12, BH-1, D- 6.7 m
Khilgaon, BH-1, D- 5.5 m

10

100
Verticle effective stress (kPa)

REFERENCES
1000

[1]

Fig. 5 Typical e-log P curves for organic samples.


[2]

IV. CONCLUSION

[3]

Dhaka city has been experienced a rapid growth of urban


population and it will continue in the future due to peoples
demand and several unavoidable reasons. Unfortunately, most
parts of the Dhaka city having competent subsoil for building
construction are already exhausted. As a result, different new
areas are being developing by filling low land.
In most cases, the practice for developing such areas is just
to fill lowlands (2 to 5 m) by dredged soils collected from
nearby river bank and river bed. It is found that the dredged
soil is almost silty sand. This invites earthquake induced
liquefaction susceptibility for thus developed reclaimed areas
[1].
Mean grain size and fines content of the fill materials for
developing such areas varies from 0.15 to 0.18 mm and 17.4
to 27.6%, respectively. The SPT N-value of the filling depth
varies from 1 to 9.
Filling soil is directly dumped on the marshy low land just
upon the vegetation and other organic materials. After a
certain time, these organic materials beneath the filling soil are
decomposed and produce a soft organic layer. It is found that
the thickness of the soft layer varies in the range of 0.5 to 7.5
m. The SPT N-value of this soft organic layer varies from 1 to
2. Liquid limit, plastic limit, plasticity index varies from 41 to
192, 20 to 129 and 15 to 63, respectively. Organic content of
the soft clay soil varies from 4.3 to 28.5%. Unconfined
compressive strength and failure strain of the soft clay varies
between 6.0 to 58.0 kPa and 9 to 15%, respectively. Initial
void ratio, compression index, recompression index and
coefficient of consolidation of these soft clay layers varies
from 1.50 to 3.90, 0.44 to 1.25, 0.05 to 0.44 and 0.20 to10.89
m2/yr, respectively.
From the characteristics of the soil it is seen that the filling
soil is liquefiable in some places. The properties the soft
organic layer indicates that this soft layer is highly plastic and
highly compressible. These soft layers will undergo for large
settlement due to the weight of the filling layer and the load
that will come from the super structures.
Further research is being conducted to correlate the shear
strength parameters and compressibility properties and ground

[4]
[5]

32

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