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Kaixia Liao
Syracuse University, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Syracuse, NY, USA

Shobha K. Bhatia
Syracuse University, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Syracuse, NY, USA


Geotextile tubes are manufactured by sewing one or more layers of high-strength

permeable woven/non-woven geotextiles together to form tubes that are later filled with high-
water content materials by hydraulic pumping. Recently, Moo-Young et al. (2002), Kutay
(2002), and Aydilek and Edil (2002), have conducted laboratory studies which concluded that
the apparent opening size (AOS 1 ) alone is not a good indicator to predict the filtration behavior
of geotextile tubes. Therefore, the current filtration criteria based on apparent opening size do
not apply for geotextile tubes.

When geotextile tubes are used in dewatering slurries, a filer cake forms on the interface
of the soil and geotextile. The formation of the filter cake, which leads to the retention of the
soil particles, can be controlled by the pore openings of the geotextile, the particle size
distribution of the soil, the water content of slurry, and the pumping pressure. The purpose of this
paper is to study the effect of the large-pore openings of geotextiles on the filtration performance
of geotextile materials. In this paper, filtration behavior of three woven geotextiles is studied
using the pressure filtration tests on three natural soil sediments. Results are presented on the
influence of the water content, pressure, and polymer.


Waste materials generated from dredging projects, mining process, paper mills,
agriculture, and industry are very difficult to dispose of due to their high water content, high
compressibility, and low shear strength. A conservative estimation of the annual total worldwide
volume of these wastes is on the order of a billion cubic meters or more (Krizek, 2000). They
need to be dewatered to a required percent solid before final disposal. At the present, the most
feasible way to dispose of these wastes is to hydraulically pump them into a dike-confined
impoundment area and allow them to dewater by consolidation and desiccation. Then, the
dewatered materials are disposed of to a landfill and often used as construction materials
(Gaffney et al., 2001).

However, several major problems arise from this method. Most notably, the very
properties of the materials entail a long dewatering time, consequently raising the issue of the

AOS: apparent opening size for a geotextile is a property which indicates the approximate the largest particles that
would effectively pass though the geotextile.

stability of the dike confinement, and, in turn, the contaminants may seep into the groundwater.
Likewise, the storage capacity of the impoundment area may not meet with the disposal
requirement, and more stringent environmental restrictions may limit the availability of land for
impoundment. All these deficiencies give rise to the need for efficient and energy-saving
alternatives to dewater such high water content materials. Consequently, geotextile tubes have
been increasingly employed in dewatering sediments (Krizek, 2000).

Geotextile tubes are manufactured by sewing one or more layers of high strength
permeable geotextile together to form containers that are then filled with high water content
materials through hydraulic pumping. Geotextile tubes can be made of woven or
nonwoven/woven composite geotextiles. The availability of a wide variety of geotextiles in
terms of tensile strength, durability, and permeability enables the use of hydraulically filled
geotextile tubes in many civil and environmental engineering applications, such as dike
construction, shoreline protection structures, and sludge dewatering. When compared to
traditional dewatering methods, geotextile tubes used for dewatering high water content
materials thus offer several advantages: rapid dewatering of large volumes of slurries, ease of
construction, convenient placement, high efficiency, low cost, labor savings, and low
environmental impacts (Fowler et al., 2000; TC Mirafi, 2003).

Dewatering tubes perform three related functions: containment, dewatering, and

consolidation. High water content infilled materials are hydraulically pumped into the tubes, and,
as the liquid escapes from the tube, solid particles are trapped inside. This process is repeated
until the tube is full. Eventually, the solids can be handled as dry material, increasing options for
transportation and disposal.

When the geotextile tube performs the containment function, it acts like a filter: as the
dewatering of the slurry using the geotextile tube takes place, the soil particles float in the water,
and after the particles move thought the geotextile, a filter cake forms as enough coarse particles
settle down ahead of the fine particles to block some of the geotextiles’ pores. This also means
that the existing criteria which have been developed for soils, not slurries, may not be applicable.

Recently, several research projects have been conducted to bridge the gap between the
laboratory tests and the field practice of geotextile tubes, focused on investigating the
performance of a variety of woven geotextiles typically used for geotextile tubes:

z Moo-Young, et al. (2002) performed 26 pressure-filtration tests under 35 and 70kPa of

pressure to assess the viability of dewatering lake and harbor sediments by several
multifilament and monofilament woven geotextiles. The AOS of the geotextiles tested
ranged from 0.250 to 0.600 mm. The D85, D50, and D15 of the lake sediments were 0.19, 0.04,
and 0.003 mm, respectively, whereas the same sizes were 0.05, 0.023, and 0.005 mm,
respectively, for the harbor sediments. The initial water content of the harbor sediments were
142% and 326%, and the lake sediments were tested at a water content of 588%. In these
tests, they measured the initial total solids TSinital (mg/l) and the final total suspended solids
in the filtrate TSSfinal (mg/l) and defined the filtration efficiency as Equation (1):
TS initial − TSS final
Filtration efficiency= × 100% (1)
TS initial

Filtration efficiencies of all tests were above 95%; therefore indicating that all the geotextiles
could retain most of the soil particles that were much smaller than AOS values of the

z Kutay (2002) performed pressure filtration tests on dredged material (D85=0.019mm,

D50=0.005mm, and D15=0.0009mm) and woven geotextiles with AOS ranging from 0.15mm
to 0.600mm. In the test, the pressure was 27.6kPa, and the water content of slurry was
1600%. He found that the geotextiles with large AOS (0.425 and 0.6mm) failed in retaining
the dredged material, and the geotexile with a small AOS (0.15mm) could retain the soil
particles. However, very low flow rates resulted in a long filtration process for the tests.
Kutay also conducted hanging bag tests in which the bags were 0.5m wide and 1m high and
the water content of slurry was 1600%. He found that in hanging bag tests, the same
geotextiles which failed in pressure filtration tests succeeded in retaining the majority of soil

z Aydilek and Edil (2002) performed pressure filtration tests under 7kPa pressure on 10 woven
geotextiles with an AOS ranging from 0.15 to 0.6mm. For their tests, they used PCB-
contaminated wastewater treatment sludge (D60=0.3 mm, D30=0.1 mm, and D10=0.0085 mm).
They concluded that a commonly used ratio of geotextile pore opening size to soil particle
size in the existing filtration criteria (O95/D85) did not predict the filtration behavior of the
geotextiles with the sludge. They measured the POA (percent open area) of the woven
geotextiles using an image analysis method and found them to be much smaller than AOS
values (POA ranged from 0.6% to 53%). They thus believed that POA was a more
appropriate parameter to predict the filtration performance.

Despite these recent contributions, there still remains confusion about controlling factors
which influence the filtration process and the filtration criteria which can be used for predicting
the filtration behavior of geotextile tubes with soil slurry. To further clearly understand the
influence of the confining pressure, water content, and additional polymer on the filtration
efficiency of the geotextile tubes, small-scale filtration pressure tests were performed on three
woven geotextiles and three soil slurries. This paper also studies the effect of the pore sizes of
geotextiles such as O95 and O50 on the filtration performance of geotextile tubes using current
existing filtration criteria.


Three woven geotextiles (A, B, and C) typically used in making geotextile tubes were
tested in this study. Geotextile A is made of high-strength polypropylene monofilament yarns,
whereas the other two geotextiles, B and C, are made of high-strength polyester multifilament
yarns. The engineering properties of these geotextiles as reported by the manufacturers are listed
in Table 1. The properties given are minimum average roll value in the machine and cross-
machine directions.

Table 1 Geotextile Properties
Properties Test Method A B C
Fiber type PP PET PET
Mass/Unit Area (g/m2) ASTM D 5261 585 600 813
Wide width tensile strength (kN/m) ASTM D 4595 70 x 96.3 175 x 175 175 x 175
Wide width tensile elongation (max) ASTM D 4595 10% 10% 15%
Water flow rate (l/m/m2) ASTM D 4491 813 1054 240
Apparent opening size (AOS) (mm) ASTM D 4751 0.425 0.27 0.15
O95 (mm) Bubble Point 0.443 0.307 0.218
O50 (mm) Bubble Point 0.09 0.072 0.03

The AOS listed in Table 1 are measured by sieving glass beads through a geotextile. It
has been shown that the drying sieving method underestimates actual pore sizes because of glass
beads become trapped within the geotextile, resulting in electrostatic effects (Bhatia & Smith,
1996). Bubble-point method, however, allows a fluid of water to pass only when the pressure
exceeds the capillary force of the fluid in the pores. Thus, the bubble point method can measure,
not only the largest pore opening, but also the entire pore-size distribution of a geotextile. In this
case, the bubble point method was used to measure the complete pore size distribution of these
three geotextiles. The results of these tests are shown in Figure 1. As it can be seen, O95 values
calculated using the bubble point method are slightly larger than AOS values.

Bubble Point
A O95 =0.443mm

70 B O95 =0.307mm

60 O95 =0.218mm
% Finer






1 0.1 0.01 0.001 0.0001
Diameter (mm)

Figure 1 Pore-size distributions of geotextiles

Three soils (Cayuga Lake sediments, Ottawa clean sand, and silt) are used for this study.
Their properties are listed in Table 2, and particle size distributions are shown in Fig. 2.

Table 2 Material Properties
Properties Materials
Cayuga Lake sediments Clean sand Silt
Percentage < 0.075mm 15% 13% 100%
d85(mm) 0.25 0.15 0.046
d50(mm) 0.16 0.10 0.017
d15(mm) 0.075 0.075 0.001
Cu 5.91 1.71 70
Cc 2.24 0.45 7.56


Cayuga Lake
80 sediments
Clean sand
Percent Finer (%)

60 Silt



10 1 0.1 0.01 0.001 0.0001
Particle Size (m m )

Figure 2 Particle size distributions of soils

Figure 3 Test apparatus


All tests were performed using the pressure filtration devices (Figure 3). This apparatus
consists of an upper plate with a pressure inlet, a chamber with an inner diameter of 7.17cm and
a height of 17cm, and a lower chamber with an outlet to collect the filtrate.
After the geotextile sample is placed on the screen holder, the slurries are mixed
sufficiently and poured into the chamber quickly; then the air pressure that has been adjusted to
the required value is applied promptly. Graduated beakers are used to collect the filtration
periodically. The volume of the filtrate and the mass of the particles in the filtrate are measured
to calculate the TSSfinal.


A total of 330 pressure filtration tests were conducted on these three woven geotextiles
and three soils under 7, 35, and 70kPa of the pressure.

Flow rate

Figure 4 shows the flow rates for the test on Cayuga Lake sediments with geotextile B.
As it can be seen from Figure 4a, flow rate increase within the first one minute and stabilizes
within 14 minutes. It can also be seen from Figure 4 that flow rates increase as the pressure and
water content increase. Because the filter cake formed above the geotextile is thinner for the
slurry with a higher water content, it is easier for the soil particles to pass through the geotextiles,
especially under a higher pressure. The thickness of the soil column (shown in Figure 5) after
the tests under 35kPa pressure also supports these findings. The final height of the soil column
after the tests was 7.52, 4.45, 2.63, and 1.77cm for the specimens prepared at a water content of
100%, 200%, 300%, and 400%, respectively.

Flow rate (cm /m in)

7kPa 35kPa 70kPa

water content =100%

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20




Flow rate (cm /m in)

7kPa 35kPa 70kPa
water content =200%

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20
Time (min)


F lo w ra te (c m /m in )

7kPa 35kPa 70kPa

water content.=300%

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20
Time (min)


7kPa 35kPa 70kPa
Flow rate (cm/s)


water content =400%


0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
Time (min)

Figure 4 Flow rate of Cayuga Lake sediments and geotextile B

Figure 5 Soil column after tests on Cayuga Lake sediments and geotextile B under 35kPa
(From left to right: 100%, 200%, 300% and 400%)

The pressure filtration test results for clean sand and silt showed similar behavior. For
example, flow rates increased with increasing water content and pressure. For clean sand and
silt, flow rates increased in the first 1 minute and dropped to a stable level when a filer cake
started to form.

The amount of soils piping through geotextile B with the Cayuga Lake sample is given in
Table 3. Piping rates increase with increasing water content and pressure and decrease at 400%
water content. The reason for this behavior may be that the increase in flow rates from 300% to
400% is not significant (Figures 4c and 4d), as compared to the decrease in initial density of the
slurry. Thus, the mass of solids in the filtrate passing through the geotextile is smaller for 400%
than 300%. The same trend exists for Cayuga Lake sediments and clean sand with geotextile A
and C.

Table 3 Piping rates of Cayuga Lake sediments and geotexitle B

Piping rate measured (g/m2)
Water content (%)
7kPa 35kPa 70kPa
100 152.64 209.57 221.95
200 198.02 229.37 252.48
300 202.97 231.44 264.85
400 160.89 182.34 185.64

Figure 6 provides the results of tests conducted on three soils with geotextile B under an
air pressure of 70kPa. The flow rate is the largest for clean sand and smallest for silt because
clean sand has the largest permeability and silt has the lowest. As a result, the dewatering time is
the lowest for the sand, followed by Cayuga Lake sediments and the silt. Geotextile B and C
under 7 and 35kPa exhibited similar dewatering behaviors.


Silt Cayuga Lake Sediment Clean sand
Flow rate (cm/s) 25




0 10 20 30 40 50 60
Tim e (m in)

Figure 6 Flow rates of three slurries with geotextile B under 70kPa pressure

Filtration Efficiency

The filtration efficiency defined by Moo-Young, et al. (2002) in Equation 1 was

calculated for all 330 pressure filtration test results which can then be divided into two groups:
one for Cayuga Lake sediments and clean sand in which the filtration efficiencies are above
95%; and the other for silt where the filtration efficiencies are smaller than 95%.

For Cayuga Lake sediments and clean sand, the filtration efficiencies of all tests under
the pressure of 7, 35, and 70kPa are given in Figure 7. The filtration efficiencies of geotextile A,


Filtration efficiency (%)

Geotextile B and C




7kPa 35kPa 70kPa Geotextile
96.5 A
0 100 200 300 400 500
Water content (%)

Figure 7 Filtration efficiencies of Cayuga Lake sediments and clean sand

which is made of monofilament yarns and with 0.443mm of O95, seem to be affected by the water
content: an average value in decrease is from 99% to 96%. The filtration efficiencies, by
contrast, seem not be influenced by the water content with geotextiles B and C, which are made
of multifilament.

The filtration behavior of geotextiles with silt is different from its behavior with Cayuga
Lake sediments and clean sand. Figure 8 shows the filtration efficiencies of all the three soils
and geotextiles: geotextile A failed in retaining the particles of silt; and the filtration efficiencies
for geotextiles B and C are much smaller with silt as compared to the Cayuga Lake sediment and
clean sand. This behavior is a clear indication of the influence of the filter cake and its
properties on the overall behavior. In short, the filtration efficiencies under different water
contents for silt showed a significant variation than for the Cayuga Lake sediments and clean
sand: the variation of the filtration efficiencies for silt is 10% when the water content increases
from 100% to 400%.
sand w ith geotextile B and C

Lake sediment
and clean sand
Filtration efficiency (% )

w ith geotextile


Silt w ith
7kPa 35kPa 70kPa geotexile B and
0 100 200 300 400 500
Water content (%)

Figure 8 Filtration efficiencies

Since it takes a long time to reach a very low flow rate and low filtration efficiency for
silt, the polymer of Magnafloc336 from CIBA was added into the silt slurry in order to improve
the filtration rate and filtration efficiency. Figure 9 shows the flow rates of silt with geotextile B
at 400% water content with different amounts of the polymer. The ratios of the polymer weight
to dry silt solids weight were 0.3%, 0.03%, 0.006%, and 0.003%. When the ratio was 0.3%, the
viscosity of the slurry was so large that no water could pass through the geotextile at all. Then,
when the ratio was decreased to 0.03%, a still large viscosity resulted in a smaller flow rate than
the slurry without the polymer. Finally, the polymer with the ratio of 0.003% to the dry soil
mass improved the flow rate considerably by improving the permeability of the filter cake.


35kPa-without polymer
Flow rate (cm /m in) 8

6 35kP-0.006%


0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140
Time (min)

Figure 9 Flow rates of silt with geotextile B at 400% water content

Filtration efficiency (%)



w ith polymer (0.003% of dry w eight)

w ithout polymer

0 100 200 300 400 500
Water content (%)

Figure 10 Filtration efficiencies of geotextile B with silt with and without

the addition of polymer under 35kPa pressure

Figure 10 shows the filtration efficiencies of the silt with and without the addition of the
polymer under 35kPa pressure. For the silt, the filtration efficiencies increase to 99% by adding
a small amount of polymer. Thus, for the slurries composed of fine particles, the addition of an
appropriate amount of polymer is very important to improve the filtration behavior of geotextile


The dewatering behavior of geotextiles is controlled by the properties of the geotextile,

the slurries, and the filtration pressure. The pore openings of geotextiles must be compatible
with the particles of the slurry to effectively form a filter cake to retain fine particles. The
properties of the filter cake, in turn, mainly depend on the properties of the soil. As shown in
Figure 6, the permeability of the soil determines the permeability of the filter cake and
dewatering time.

The water content is also a factor which controls the filtration behavior of geotextiles.
The test results indicate that the water content seems to affect the filtration behavior for
monofilament woven geotextile A, as compared to the multifilament geotextiles B and C. The
thinner filter cake caused by the higher water content of the slurry increases the difficulty for soil
particles to pass through it. The piping rate listed in Table 3 increases from 100% to 300%, then
decreases from 300% to 400%, with the influence of the small increase in flow rate and with less
initial slurry density. Because it takes a longer time to dewater the slurry with 100% water
content and to pump the slurry with 400% water content, a water content of 200% may be
optimal to achieve a good balance between pumping cost and dewatering time.

Pressure is another factor which influences the filtration performance of geotextiles:

higher pressure tends to decrease the filtration efficiencies and accelerate the dewatering rate,
especially when the pressure increases from 7kPa to 35kPa.

The particle size distributions of the soils used in this study and the ones reported by
Moo-Young et al. (2002) and Kutay (2002) are plotted in Figure 11. The existing filtration
criteria for geotextile filters are used to predict the filtration performance of these soils: it is
found that

• For the soils in this study, using O95 and O50 measured from the bubble point
tests, the criteria proposed by Ogink (1975), Christopher and Holtz (1985), and
Fischer et al. (1990) can accurately predict the filtration performance of these
three geotextiles with Cayuga Lake sediments and clean sand; and all these
criteria can also predict the performance of geotextile A with silt. No single
criterion, however, can predict the filtration performance of geotextiles B and C
with silt.
• For the soil in the studies by Moo-Young et al. (2002), the criterion proposed by
Calhoun (1972) can predict accurately the filtration performance of geotextiles
with large pore openings (AOS=0.425mm and 0.6mm) for harbor sediments; and
the criterion by Christopher & Holtz (1985) can predict the filtration behavior of
geotextiles with 0.25mm of AOS for harbor sediments. However, no single
criteria can predict the performance of all the geotextiles with lake sediments and
soil in the Kutay (2002) study.

Therefore, it is suggested that the pressure filtration tests should be conducted for fine-grained
materials, rather than relying on existing filtration criteria.



80 Moo-
70 sediment
Percent Finer (%)

Cayuga Lake
30 clean Ottawa
20 In this
Silt study

10 1 0.1 0.01 0.001 0.0001
Particle Size (mm)

Figure 11 Particle size distribution of the soil in all research

In the Kutay (2002) study, the geotextiles with large pore openings (AOS=0.425 and
0.6mm) were successful in retaining the fine-grained sediments, while they failed in retaining the
particles in pressure filtration tests. In hanging bag tests, the slurry was poured into the bags
without any pressure, which means that coarser particles have enough time to settle down ahead
of fine particles to form the filter cakes in the hanging bag tests (as compared with the pressure
filtration tests). The filtration tests under 0kPa pressure were also conducted in this study: either
no filtrate or little filtrate passed though the geotextiles for silt and Cayuga Lake sediments 1
minute after the slurry was poured into the device chamber. The filter cake forms more slowly
and has a smaller permeability in the tests under no pressure than under the pressure.


In this study, 330 pressure filtration tests were conducted on three soils and three woven
geotextiles typically used in geotextile tubes application. The following conclusions can be
drawn based on the test results:

1. The water content ranging from 100% to 400% has little effect on the filtration efficiencies
of the coarse-grained materials. However, for fine grained materials, high water content
seems to decrease the filtration efficiency.

2. Pressure ranging from 7kPa to 70kPa has little effect on the filtration efficiency. Even
though relatively higher pressures generally resulted in higher flow rates.

3. The addition of the polymer is very important to accelerate the dewatering process and
increase the stable flow rate of the fine-grained materials.

4. Several existing filtration criteria can predict the filtration performance of the three woven
geotextiles with coarse-grained soils using AOS, O95, and O50 measured from the bubble
point tests. No single criterion predicts accurately the filtration performance of the
geotextiles with fine-grained materials using these parameters. It is suggested that pressure
filtration tests and hanging bag tests have to be conducted for fine-grained soils.


Future research will be focused on the pressure filtration tests with the addition of
polymers to better understand the filtration behavior of fine-grained sediments. This research
will include the hanging bag test with the small bag size and the large standard size – with the
hope of establishing a better understanding of the filtration behavior of geotextile tubes.


The authors would like to thank Huesker Inc. and TC Mirafi for providing geotextiles for
this study. The authors would also like to thank the National Science Foundation (Grant No. 353
5848) for providing financial support.


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