Answer: Erik Mikkelsen says:
I have heard this concern voiced from time to time, but the evidence from measurements in slopes and landslides suggest that it should not be a big concern, particularly in soft (loose) soil.
In soft soils, shear displacements are more distributed than in harder soils. For example, the shear zone in a basalt landslide complex was measured to be 15 inches thick using special inclinometer procedures. On the south Oregon coast (Arizona Inn landslide) in mélange, the shear zone is on the order of 2 to 3 feet thick after a major rupture and repair work. Measurements at the toe of an embankment in soft silts and clays next to the Puyallup River in Tacoma indicated a shear zone of 4 to 6 feet.
Based on the experience above, I think that within the measurable range of the inclinometer system, the stiffness of the inclinometer casing will not appreciably redistribute displacements. A significant rupture occurs most likely on a plane or a thinner zone, but that is the beyond the range that the inclinometer can measure. (The casing simply closes and does not allow passage of the probe).
Inclinometer casing made from ABS is relatively weak compared to the ground and is quite ductile. It does not normally crack due to excessive deformation, it cold flows. It would be difficult to come up with a "softer" material that would meet production, installation and tracking requirements.
There are two other significant factors in soft soils. Drilling of the borehole can alter the conditions around the installation. Loose soil can densify and cave, changing the natural conditions. The stiffness of the backfill also has an effect, since it typically occupies 75% of the borehole cross-sectional area. Grout stiffness is probably a greater issue than the ABS casing stiffness. Not much information is available on design and characteristics of soft cement-bentonite grout as far as I know. In soft soil the "instrument disturbance factor" can be significant.
Finally, even if there is some redistribution of displacements due to grout and casing stiffness and borehole disturbance, the inclinometer will measure the correct total amount, but over a longer interval of the borehole. Also, the true profile of the casing in the shear zone cannot be defined by ordinary methods. Special techniques using 3-inch reading intervals and special calculation methods must be used.