Methods are provided for detecting and locating leaks in liners used as barriers in the construction of landfills, surface impoundments, water reservoirs, tanks, and the like. Electrodes are placed in the ground around the periphery of the facility, in the leak detection zone located between two liners if present, and/or within the containment facility. Electrical resistivity data is collected using these electrodes. This data is used to map the electrical resistivity distribution beneath the containment liner or between two liners in a double-lined facility. In an alternative embodiment, an electrode placed within the lined facility is driven to an electrical potential with respect to another electrode placed at a distance from the lined facility (mise-a-la-masse). Voltage differences are then measured between various combinations of additional electrodes placed in the soil on the periphery of the facility, the leak detection zone, or within the facility. A leak of liquid through the liner material will result in an electrical potential distribution that can be measured at the electrodes. The leak position is located by determining the coordinates of an electrical current source pole that best fits the measured potentials with the constraints of the known or assumed resistivity distribution.
The United States government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.