Evaluating liquefaction potential of pumiceous deposits through field testing
Case study of the 1987 Edgecumbe earthquake
Pumice materials, which are problematic from an engineering viewpoint, are widespread in the central part of the North Island. Considering the impacts of the 2010-2011 Christchurch earthquakes, a clear understanding of their properties under earthquake loading is necessary. For example, the 1987 Edgecumbe earthquake showed evidence of localised liquefaction of sands of volcanic origin. To elucidate on this, research was undertaken to investigate whether existing empirical field-based methods to evaluate the liquefaction potential of sands, which were originally developed for hard-grained soils, are applicable to crushable pumice-rich deposits. For this purpose, two sites, one in Whakatane and another in Edgecumbe, were selected where the occurrence of liquefaction was reported following the Edgecumbe earthquake. Manifestations of soil liquefaction, such as sand boils and ejected materials, have been reported at both sites. Field tests, including cone penetration tests (CPT), shear-wave velocity profiling, and screw driving sounding (SDS) tests were performed at the sites. Then, considering estimated peak ground accelerations (PGAs) at the sites based on recorded motions and possible range of ground water table locations, liquefaction analysis was conducted at the sites using available empirical approaches. To clarify the results of the analysis, undisturbed soil samples were obtained at both sites to investigate the laboratory-derived cyclic resistance ratios and to compare with the field-estimated values. Research results clearly showed that these pumice-rich soils do not fit existing liquefaction assessment frameworks and alternate methods are necessary to characterise them.
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