The drainage layers of landfill final covers normally go through a rigorous flow capacity evaluation. This evaluation is necessary to ensure that the volume of water reaching the drainage layer due to percolation of precipitation water through the final cover upper soil layer will not overwhelm the drainage layer in its flow path. If the flow volume in the geocomposite drainage layer is greater than the capacity of the drainage layer, water will exit the geocomposite and enter the overlying soil. The water entering the soil layer can easily saturate the lower portion of the soil layer, which will affect the stability of the slope. The geocomposite should always be designed to have a flow capacity greater than the flow rate of water running through it.
Concave areas of a landfill slope experience flow patterns quite different from slopes that go straight down. Slopes with concaved geometry have an unequal crest and toe lines – the toe line being smaller than the crest line. As a result, the width of the concaved slope decreases as the distance from the crest line increases in the downward direction. The narrowest width of the concaved slope is at the toe of the slope. The drainage layer on the slope experiences the same width change from the crest line to the toe line. This means that the overall width of the channels that carry water within the geocomposite drainage layer decreases toward the toe line, and, therefore, the depth of water in the channels increases. This phenomenon is referred to as flow convergence, and the convergence is toward the vertical centerline of the concaved slope. The flow convergence may be significant enough to increase the water depth in the geocomposite in the vicinity of the vertical centerline of the slope to greater than the thickness of the geocomposite. That, in turn, forces water out of the geocomposite and into the overlying soil, which may result in slope stability problems.
To complement the geocomposite flow capacity along the vertical centerline of the concaved slope in order to accommodate the higher water flow rates in the system, a pipe-gravel-geotextile (a burrito) may be constructed along the vertical centerline of the slope. The burrito, which would be positioned directly over the geocomposite drainage layer, increases the flow capacity of the system at and in the vicinity of the vertical centerline of the concaved slope. The burrito will receive water from the geocomposite where the water depth exceeds the geocomposite thickness. The burrito will be connected to the toe drain system at the toe of the slope, and water in the burrito will be discharged to the toe drain. The water in the toe drain, in turn, leaves the final cover through lateral drain pipes at regular intervals.
It should be noted that not every concaved slope requires a burrito. Some concaved slopes may be fairly wide, and the convergence of water inside the geocomposite may not be significant enough to cause the depth of water to exceed the geocomposite thickness. But, if the concavity of the slope is significant, a severe convergence of water in the geocomposite drainage layer is more likely. In that case, a burrito along the vertical centerline of the concaved slope is highly recommended.
A cautionary construction related note seems to be appropriate at this point. During construction, extra care should be taken to ensure that all geocomposite panels within the boundary of the concaved slope run such that the machine direction of the panels follows a path from the top toward the bottom of the slope. If some geocomposite panels are installed with the machine direction running across the slope width, significant turbulence in the flow will be created at the point where panels running in one direction transition to the panels running in the other direction. The turbulence will reduce the flow capacity of the geocomposite.
If you are planning to install a final cover over a portion of the slope that has concaved geometry and you want your final cover design to properly address flow volumes in the geocomposite drainage layer, please contact us. SCS Engineers has extensive experience with these types of circumstances, and we will gladly review your case and make recommendations. Learn more here.
If you have comments or questions about this article, please contact Dr. Ali Khatami.
Ali Khatami, Ph.D., PE, LEP, CGC, is a Project Director and a Vice President of SCS Engineers. He is also our National Expert for Landfill Design and Construction Quality Assurance. He has nearly 40 years of research and professional experience in mechanical, structural, and civil engineering.
Dr. Khatami has acquired extensive experience and knowledge in the areas of geology, hydrogeology, hydrology, hydraulics, construction methods, material science, construction quality assurance (CQA), and stability of earth systems. Dr. Khatami has applied this experience in the siting of numerous landfills and the remediation of hazardous waste contaminated sites.
Dr. Khatami has been involved in the design and permitting of civil and environmental projects such as surface water management systems, drainage structures, municipal solid waste landfills, hazardous solid waste landfills, low-level radioactive waste landfills, leachate and wastewater conveyance and treatment systems. He is also involved in the design of gas management systems, hazardous waste impoundments, storage tank systems, waste tire processing facilities, composting facilities, material recovery facilities, landfill gas collection and disposal systems, leachate evaporator systems, and liquid impoundment floating covers.