Export file:


  • RIS(for EndNote,Reference Manager,ProCite)
  • BibTex
  • Text


  • Citation Only
  • Citation and Abstract

Geology and engineering properties of sensitive Boston Blue Clay at Newbury, Massachusetts

1 Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA, 01003 USA
2 Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Maine, Orono, ME, 04469 USA
3 Geosyntec Consultants, Acton, MA, 01720 USA

Special Issues: Characterization and Engineering Properties of Natural Soils used for geotesting

This paper describes the geology and geotechnical engineering properties of a sensitive marine clay deposit at a research site located in Newbury, Massachusetts (MA) in the northeast USA. Results from in situ testing, soil sampling, and laboratory testing are presented. The clay is locally known as Boston Blue Clay (BBC) which is a glacial marine clay that was deposited approximately 14,000 years ago in the greater Boston, MA area during retreat of the Laurentide Ice Sheet. The thickness, stress history, and soil properties of BBC can vary significantly depending on location. At the Newbury research site, the BBC deposit consists of a shallow thin desiccated crust underlain by a 12-meter thick low plasticity clay with an overconsolidation ratio ranging from 2 to 3. Sensitivity of the clay ranges from approximately 10 to 30, based on field vane and fall cone measurements. In situ testing performed at the site included seismic piezocone and field vane. Soil sampling was performed using a variety of samplers including Sherbrooke block, fixed piston thin-walled Shelby tube, and a thick-walled drive sampler. A full suite of advanced laboratory tests was performed on the various quality samples collected, which ranged from very poor (thick-walled drive sampler) to excellent (Sherbrooke block), including constant rate of strain consolidation, consolidated undrained triaxial and direct simple shear. The efficacy of the Recompression and SHANSEP procedures to mitigate sample disturbance was evaluated using results from the advanced laboratory test program. The paper presents data from these advanced tests as well as other soil classification, index, and engineering properties based on in situ measurements and laboratory test results. A synopsis of constructed facilities built on and in BBC within the greater Boston area is also presented.
  Article Metrics


1. Paikowsky SG, Chen YL (1998) Field and Laboratory Study of the Physical Characteristics and Engineering Parameters of the Subsurface at the Newbury Bridge Site. Res Rpt, Dept of Civil and Environ. Engineering, University of Massachusetts Lowell.

2. Poirier SE (2005) Evaluation of Soil Suction as an Indicator of Sample Quality for a Soft Saturated Marine Clay. PhD Thesis, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

3. Jakubowski J (2005) Use of Seismic CPTU for Site Characterization in Soft Clays. Masters of Science, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

4. Landon MM (2007) Development of Non-Destructive Sample Quality Assessment Method for Soft Clays. PhD Thesis, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

5. Ryan R (2011) Incremental Loading and Constant Rate of Strain Consolidation of Clays Using Block Samples. Master of Science Thesis, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

6. Hein CJ, Fitzgerald DM, Buynevich IV, et al. (2014) Evolution of paraglacial coasts in response to changes in fluvial sediment supply, Martini IP, Wanless HR (eds), Sedimentary Coastal Zones from High to Low Latitudes: Similarities and Differences, Geological Society, London, Special Publications 388, 247–280.

7. Hein CJ, FitzGerald DM, Carruthers EA, et al. (2012) Refining the model of barrier island formation along a paraglacial coast in the Gulf of Maine. Mar Geol 307–310: 40–57.

8. Oldale RN, Colman SM, Jones GA (1993) Radiocarbon ages from two submerged strandline features in the western Gulf of Maine and a sea-level curve for the northeastern Massachusetts Coastal Region. Quat Res 40: 38–45.    

9. Kenney TC (1964) Sea-level movements and the geologic histories of the post-glacial marine soils at Boston, Nicolet, Ottawa, and Oslo. Géotechnique 14: 203–230.    

10. Barosh PJ, Woodhouse D (2012) A City Upon a Hill: The Geology of the City of Boston & Surrounding Region. Civil Engineering Practice. J Boston Soc Civ Eng Sect/ASCE 26 & 27: 480.

11. ASTM (2005) Annual Book of Standards, Vol. 4.08, Soil and Rock (I): D421-D5876 and Vol. 4.09, Soil and Rock (II): D5878-latest. West Conshohocken, PA, USA.

12. Lefebvre G, Poulin C (1979) A new method of sampling in sensitive clay. Can Geotech J 16: 226–233.    

13. DeGroot DJ, Lunne T, Sheahan TC, et al. (2003) Experience with downhole block sampling in soft clays. Proceedings 12th Panamerican Conference on Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, Cambridge, MA, 521–526.

14. Dreimanis A (1962) Quantitative Gasometric Determination of Calcite and Dolomite by Using Chittick Apparatus. J Sediment Petrol 32: 520–529.

15. Landon MM, DeGroot DJ, Sheahan TC (2007) Non-Destructive sample quality assessment of a soft clay using shear wave velocity. J Geotech Geoenvironmental Eng 133: 424–432.    

16. Poirier SE, DeGroot DJ (2010) Development of a portable probe for field and laboratory measurement of low to medium values of soil suction. Geotech Test J 33: 3.

17. Stone BD, Stone JR, McWeeney LJ (2004) Where the glacier met the sea: Late Quaternary geology of the northeast coast of Massachusetts from Cape Ann to Salisbury, In: Hanson L (Ed.), New England Intercollegiate Geological Conference, Salem, Massachusetts, Trip B-3, 25.

18. Schnitker D, Belknap DF, Bacchus TS, et al. (2001) Deglaciation of the Gulf of Maine, Deglacial history and relative sea-level changes, northern New England and adjacent Canada, Thomas K. Weddle, Michael J. Retelle, 9–34.

19. Ridge JS, Canwell BA, Kelly MA, et al. (2001) Atmospheric 14C chronology for late Wisconsinan deglaciation and sea-level change in eastern New England using varve and paleomagnetic records, In: Thomas K. Weddle, Michael J. Retelle, eds., Deglacial history and relative sea-level changes, northern New England and adjacent Canada, 171–189.

20. Kaye CA (1961) Pleistocene stratigraphy of Boston, Massachusetts. United States Geological Survey Professional Paper, 424-B, 73–76.

21. Kaye CA (1982) Bedrock, and quaternary geology of the Boston area, Massachusetts. U.S.A. Geol Surv Am Rev Eng Geol 5: 25–40.

22. Mesri G, Ali S (1999) Undrained shear strength of a glacial clay overconsolidated by desiccation. Géotechnique 49: 181–198.    

23. Johnson EG (1989) Geotechnical characteristics of the Boston area. Civ Eng Pract 4: 53–64.

24. Hein CJ, FitzGerald DM, Barnhardt WA, et al. (2010) Onshore-offshore surficial geologic map of the Newburyport East Quadrangle, Massachusetts, State Map Preliminary Map, 1 sheet.

25. Paikowsky SG, Hajduk EL (2004) Design and construction of three instrumented test piles to examine time dependent pile capacity gain. Geotech Test J 27: 515–531.

26. Holtz RD, Kovacs WD, Sheahan TC (2011) An Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering. 2nd Edition, Pearson, New Jersey.

27. Burland JB (1990) On the compressibility and shear strength of natural clays. Géotechnique 40: 329–378.    

28. Chandler RJ (2000) Clay sediments in depositional basins: the geotechnical cycle. Q J Eng Geol Hydrogeol 33: 7–39.    

29. Nagaraj TS, Miura N (2001) Soft Clay Behaviour. A.A. Balkema Publishers, Rotterdam, Netherlands.

30. DeGroot DJ, Landon MM, Lunne T (2008) Synopsis of recommended practice for sampling and handling of soft clays to minimize sample disturbance. Proceedings of 3 rd International Conference on Site Characterization, Taipei, Taiwan, CD, 6.

31. Ladd CC, DeGroot DJ (2003) Recommended practice for soft ground site characterization: Arthur Casagrande Lecture. Proceedings 12th Panamerican Conference on Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, Boston, MA, 3–57.

32. Robertson PK (2009) Interpretation of cone penetration tests-a unified approach. Can Geotech J 46: 1337–1355.    

33. Robertson PK (1990) Soil classification using the cone penetration test. Can Geotech J 27: 151–158.    

34. Robertson PK, Campanella RG, Gillespie D, et al. (1986) Seismic CPT to measure in situ shear wave velocity. J Geotech Eng 112: 791–803.    

35. Campanella RG, Stewart WP (1992) Seismic cone analysis using digital signal processing for dynamic site characterization. Can Geotech J 29: 477–486.    

36. Landon MM, DeGroot DJ (2006) Measurement of small strain shear modulus anisotropy on unconfined clay samples using bender elements. Proceedings GeoCongress '06: Geotechnical Engineering in the Information Technology Age, ASCE Geo-Institute, CD, 6.

37. Jamiolkowski R, Lancellotta R, Lo Presti DCF (1995) Remarks on the stiffness at small strains of six Italian clays. Developments in Deep Foundations and Ground Improvement Schemes: Symp on Geotextiles, Geomembranes and Other Geosynthetics in Ground Improvement, 197–216.

38. Pennington DS, Nash DFT, Lings ML (1997) Anisotropy of G 0 shear stiffness in Gault clay. Géotechnique 47: 391–398.    

39. DeGroot DJ, Landon MM, Ryan RM (2007) Objective evaluation of preconsolidation stress for soft clays from constant rate of strain pore pressure data. Adv Meas Model Soil Behav.

40. Lunne T, Berre T, Andersen KH, et al. (2006) Effects of sample disturbance and consolidation procedures on measured shear strength of soft marine Norwegian clays. Can Geotech J 43: 726–750.    

41. Terzaghi K, Peck RB, Mesri G (1996) Soil Mechanics in Engineering Practice. John Wiley and Sons, New York, 549.

42. Becker DE, Crooks JH, Been K, et al. (1987) Work as a criterion for determining in situ and yield stresses in clays. Can Geotech J 24: 549–564.    

43. Mesri G, Feng TW (1992) Constant rate of strain consolidation testing of soft clays. Proceedings Marsal Symp, Mexico City, 49–59.

44. Mesri G, Lo DOK, Feng TW (1994) Settlement of embankments on soft clays. Proceedings of ASCE conference on vertical and horizontal deformations of foundations and embankments, College Station, Texas, 1: 8–56.

45. Leroueil S (1996) Compressibility of clays: fundamental and practical aspects. J Geotech Eng 122: 534–543.    

46. Jamiolkowski M, Ladd CC, Germaine JT, et al. (1985) New developments in field and laboratory testing of soils. Proceedings 11th International Conference on Soil Mechanics and Foundation Eng, San Francisco, 1: 57–154.

47. Lunne T, Robertson PK, Powell JJM (1997) Cone Penetration Testing In Geotechnical Practice. Spoon Press, London.

48. Mayne PW (2007) Cone Penetration Testing: A Synthesis of Highway Practice. NCHRP Synthesis 368. Transportation Research Board, Washington, D.C.

49. Menzies BK (1988) A computer controlled hydraulic triaxial testing system. Donaghe RT, Chaney RC, Silver ML, Eds., Advanced Triaxial Testing of Soil and Rock, ASTM STP 977, American Society for Testing and Materials, Philadelphia, 82–94.

50. Wissa AEZ, Christian JT, Davis EH, et al. (1971) Consolidation at constant rate of strain. J Soil Mech Found Div 97: 1393–1413.

51. Mesri G, Hayat TM (1993) The coefficient of earth pressure at rest. Can Geotech J 30: 647–666.    

52. Sandbækken G, Berre T, Lacasse S (1986) Oedometer testing at the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute. Consolidation of Soils: Testing and Evaluation, ASTM STP 892: 329–353

53. Tavenas R, Jean P, Leblond P, et al. (1983) The permeability of natural soft clays, Part II: permeability characteristics. Can Geotech J 20: 645–660.    

54. Baligh MM, Levadoux JN (1986) Consolidation after undrained piezocone penetration, II Interpretation. J Geotech Eng 112: 727–745.    

55. Germaine JT, Ladd CC (1988) State-of-the-Art: Triaxial testing of saturated cohesive soils. Advanced Triaxial Testing of Soil and Rock, ASTM STP 977: 421–459.

56. Lacasse S, Berre T (1988) State-of-the-Art: Triaxial testing methods for soils. Advanced Triaxial Testing of Soil and Rock, ASTM STP 977: 264–289.

57. Bjerrum L (1973) Problems of soil mechanics and construction on soft clays. Proceedings 8th International Conference Soil Mech and Found Eng, Moscow, 3: 111–159.

58. Bjerrum L, Landva A (1966) Direct simple shear tests on Norwegian quick clay. Géotechnique 16: 1–20.    

59. DeGroot DJ, Ladd CC, Germaine JT (1992) Direct Simple Shear Testing of Cohesive Soils, Research Report No. R92-18, Center for Scientific Excellence in Offshore Engineering, MIT, Cambridge, MA.

60. Ladd CC (1991) Stability evaluation during staged construction (22nd Terzaghi Lecture). J Geotech Eng 117: 540–615.    

61. Mesri G (2001) Undrained shear strength of soft clays from push cone penetration test. Géotechnique 51: 167–168.    

62. Baligh MM, Azzouz AS, Chin CT (1987) Disturbances due to ideal tube sampling. J Geotech Eng 113: 739–757.    

63. Clayton CRI, Siddique A, Hopper RJ (1998) Effects of sampler design on tube sampling disturbance-numerical and analytical investigations. Géotechnique 48: 847–867.    

64. Hight DW (2003) Sampling effects in soft clay: An update on Ladd and Lambe (1963). Soil Behav Soft Ground Constr, 86–122.

65. DeGroot DJ (2003) Laboratory measurement and interpretation of soft clay mechanical behavior. Soil Behav Soft Ground Constr, 167–200.

66. Tanaka H, Sharma P, Tsuchida T, et al. (1996) Comparative study on sample quality using several types of samplers. Soils Found 36: 57–68.

67. Hight DW, McMillan F, Powell JJM, et al. (2003) Some Characteristics of London Clay. Proceedings of the International Workshop on Characterisation and Engineering Properties of Natural Soils, Singapore, 2: 851–907.

68. Donohue S, Long M (2010) Assessment of sample quality in soft clay using shear wave velocity and suction measurements. Géotechnique 60: 883–889.    

69. Berman DR, Germaine JT, Ladd CC (1993) Characterization of engineering properties of Boston blue clay for the MIT campus. Research Rep. 93-16, Dept of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.

70. Ladd CC, Whittle AJ, Legaspi DE (1994) Stress-deformation behavior of an Embankment on Boston Blue Clay. Proceedings of ASCE conference on vertical and horizontal deformations of foundations and embankments, College Station, Texas, 2: 1739–1759.

71. Ladd CC, Young GA, Kraemer SR, et al. (1999) Engineering properties of Boston blue clay from special testing program. Proceedings Special Geotechnical Testing: Central Artery/Tunnel Project in Boston, Massachusetts, ASCE, Reston, VA, 1–24.

72. Koutsoftas DC, Ladd CC (1985) Design strengths for an offshore clay. J Geotech Eng 111: 337–355.    

73. Kulhawy FH, Mayne PW (1990) Manual on Estimating Soil Properties for Foundation Design, Report No. EL‐6800, EPRI, Palo Alto, CA, 306.

74. Mitchell TJ, DeGroot DJ, Lutenegger AJ, et al. (1999) Comparison of CPTU and laboratory soil parameters for bridge foundation design on fine grained soils: A case study in Massachusetts. Transp Res Rec 1675: 24–31.    

75. Vaghar S, Bobrow DJ (1998) Comparison of two excavation support systems in clay: Central Artery Tunnel, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 4th International Conference on Case Histories in Geotechnical Engineering, St. Louis, Missouri.

76. Hashash YMA, Whittle AJ (1996) Ground movement prediction for deep excavations in soft clay. J Geotech Eng 122: 474–486.    

77. Orazalin ZY, Whittle AJ, Olsen MB (2015) Three-dimensional analyses of excavation support system for the Stata Center basement on the MIT campus. J Geotech Geoenvironmental Eng 141: 05015001.    

78. Whittle AJ, Hashash YMA, Whitman RV (1993) Analysis of deep excavation in Boston. J Geotech Eng 119: 69–90.    

79. Whittle AJ, Corral G, Jen LC, et al. (2015) Prediction and Performance of Deep Excavations for Courthouse Station, Boston. J Geotech Geoenvironmental Eng 141: 04014123.    

80. Hagerty D, Peck R (1971) Heave and Lateral Movements due to Pile Driving. J Soil Mech Found Div 97: 1513–1531.

81. Dugan Jr JP, Freed DL (1984) Ground Heave Due to Pile Driving. 1st International Conference on Case Histories in Geotechnical Engineering, St. Louis, Missouri.

82. Abedi H, Risitano J, Yamane D, et al. (1993) Performance of Wick Drains in Bon Blue Clay. 3rd International Conference on Casoste Histories in Geotechnical Engineering, St. Louis, Missouri.

© 2019 the Author(s), licensee AIMS Press. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licese (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)

Download full text in PDF

Export Citation

Article outline

Show full outline
Copyright © AIMS Press All Rights Reserved