Laboratory testing was conducted to quantify strain concentrations adjacent to seams and scratches in high density polyethylene (HDPE) geomembranes. The tensile strain profile of remnants meeting the ASTM criteria for wide-width tensile testing from samples of field seams recovered for construction quality assurance testing was evaluated using digital image correlation (DIC). Strains adjacent to scratches on laboratory prepared samples loaded in tension were also measured using DIC. The tensile strain in the zone adjacent to a seam and the tensile strain adjacent to a scratch were compared to the tensile strains calculated using theoretical strain concentration factors. The relationship between the maximum tensile strain adjacent to a seam and the global nominal strain in the sample was quantified for textured and smooth geomembranes of common thicknesses. Using statistical analysis of the data, bounds were developed for the allowable nominal tensile strain expected to induce maximum tensile strains adjacent to the seam less than or equal to the typical yield strain of HDPE geomembranes, at several confidence levels. Where nominal strain is the global or average strain applied to the sample and maximum strain is the largest tensile strain induced in the sample.
The reduction in the nominal yield strain due to a scratch in a HDPE geomembrane was also quantified. The yield strain was approximately the same as predicted using theoretical strain concentration factors. The difference in the average measured maximum strains adjacent to the seams of textured and smooth HDPE geomembranes was found to be statistically insignificant. However, maximum strains adjacent to extrusion welded seams were somewhat greater than adjacent to fusion welded seams for nominal strains on the order of 3% to 4%. The results of the testing program suggest that the nominal tensile strain should be limited to 4% around dual hot wedge seams and 3% around extrusion fillet seams to avoid maximum strains equal to 11%, a typical yield strain for HDPE geomembranes.