Landfills located in areas with high precipitation usually experience leachate seeps on slopes. The location of leachate seeps varies, and the reason behind the seeps appearing on the slopes varies as well.
As long as the slope does not have its final cover, you can attempt to control leachate seeps no matter where the seep location. There are many remedies known to landfill operators for controlling seeps before the final cover, but leachate seeps below the final cover are not controllable. The reason is the seeps are out of reach, and you have no means to control or mitigate the situation. The only potential solution is a seep management system built under the final cover geomembrane at the time of final cover construction.
For landfills with slopes extending up to the top of the landfill without terraces, construct a leachate toe drain system (LTDS) at the toe of the slope adjacent to the landfill perimeter berm. The design will collect and convey liquids emanating from seeps further up on the slope (below the final cover geomembrane) to the leachate collection system. See Figure 1.
For landfills with terraces on the slope, construct LTDSs at every terrace. Best practices call for the location at the toe of the slope, above the terrace, the lowest point of that slope. Consequently, the terrace width prevents seep liquids from flowing further down the slope, and the LTDS at the terrace prevents the accumulation of leachate behind the final cover geomembrane at the interior line of the terrace. See Figure 2.
At the lowest point of the terrace, locate a downspout to convey liquids to the leachate collection system at the bottom of the landfill. You will also need a LTDS at the toe of the slope adjacent to the landfill perimeter berm, as discussed above. You may connect the terrace downspouts to the LTDS located adjacent to the perimeter berm to drain the liquids collected at terraces.
To prevent erosion of fines by small streams of liquids flowing down the slope below the final cover geomembrane use this best practice. This design will prevent depressions forming in the top surface of the final cover. First, place a LTDS geocomposite panel from the source of any leachate seep that you identify on the slope right before the construction of the final cover. Connect the panel to the LTDS pipe-gravel burrito at the terrace or perimeter berm. This solution provides a preferential path for liquids coming out of the seep without causing erosion. See Figures 1 and 2.
Place the LTDS geocomposite below the LTDS burrito when simultaneously constructing the burrito and the LTDS geocomposite. When constructing the LTDS burrito ahead of time, place the LTDS geocomposite above the burrito later. In either case, the contact area between the LTDS burrito and the LTDS geocomposite must be free of soil, which could impede the free flow of liquids to the LTDS burrito.
SCS has a 20-year record of accomplishment solving leachate seeps below the final cover geomembrane. Feel free to contact our landfill designers for advice.
About the Author: 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.
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