Pumping-Test Evaluation of Fault-Zone Hydraulic Properties in a Fractured Sandstone

Friday, 19 December 2014
Nicholas M Johnson, MWH Global, Inc. Walnut Creek, Walnut Creek, CA, United States
Subzones of both reduced and enhanced permeability are often ascribed to fault zones, consistent with a fault-core/damage-zone conceptualization, with associated implications for assessing potential contaminant transport. Within this context, a 31-day pumping test was conducted in relation to a relatively minor, 2000 m long fault zone cutting fractured Cretaceous sandstone interbedded with siltstone and shale at a groundwater remediation site in the Simi Hills of southern California during March-April 2013. Our objective was to evaluate the potential hydrogeologic influence of the fault zone on groundwater movement across and along it by observing the spatial patterns of drawdown and estimated hydraulic properties. A 122 m deep open borehole was pumped at a constant rate of approximately 112 L/min while monitoring hydraulic heads in 14 observation wells, two completed with multi-level systems, within 750 m of the pumping well. Hydraulic heads were monitored for more than 9 months before, during, and after the test. Prior to the test, we used the site’s three-dimensional, equivalent-porous-media groundwater flow model to anticipate the potential response of alternative fault-zone permeability structures. The results suggest that the fault zone may be slightly more permeable (by a factor of about 2 or less) and less confined than the fractured sandstone away from the fault, and is not a significant barrier to groundwater flow across it. Within the areal extent of observed drawdown, the site’s hydrostratigraphic structures exhibited a relatively greater hydraulic influence. The pattern and magnitude of observed drawdown lie within the range of pre-test model simulations, and the test results are now being used to revise and recalibrate the model.