landfill capping

July 15, 2020

landfill caps
Another SCS Advice from the Field blog.

Landfill slopes that have reached final grades, or will receive waste in the distant future have maintenance challenges. Environmental elements continually affect surface conditions, and remedial work is required routinely to prevent negative outcomes of exposed slopes. Consider using a geomembrane temporary cap to address much of the maintenance. Here’s a list showing how the cap can help:

Landfill Maintenance Challenge       

  • Washouts due to stormwater runoff
  • Need to establish a vegetative cover
  • Maintain grass regularly
  • Leachate seeps appearing without warning
  • Landfill odors after storms
  • Surface disturbance from gas lines or associated construction
  • Leachate generation from rainwater percolation

With Geomembrane Temporary Cap

  • No washouts – sheet flow of stormwater runoff over the geomembrane
  • No need for a vegetative cover
  • No mowing, or cutting paths to read a well
  • Leachate seeps diminish with a temporary impermeable layer
  • Additional barrier to control landfill odors
  • Easily place gas lines above the geomembrane
  • Less percolation equates to less leachate generation from the capped area


The significant maintenance savings by using a temporary cap make the payoff period for the investment attractive. Based on my experience and site variations, the return on investment is usually three to six years. The period is considerably shorter if your landfill does not have a leachate disposal or treatment system, or deep injection well. The difference is the high cost to have the leachate hauled away.

Temporary caps potentially reduce routine maintenance work, leaving operation staff available for other tasks. The cap provides peace of mind that slopes remain in compliance; regulators don’t need to report non-compliance conditions of exposed slopes during inspection events.

After completing 25 temporary cap projects in the U.S. Southeast alone, we highly recommend using a thick geomembrane. It’s tempting to try to save money using a thinner geomembrane, such as 12 mils or 20 mils, but these can damage more easily and will negatively affect your return. The majority of SCS clients chose to use the recommended 40 mils thick geomembrane, which will survive severe weather conditions.

Ballasting the geomembrane and using the right materials for ballasting is significantly important. We recommend using ultraviolet (UV) resistant rope and sandbags, a tried and true system. UV resistant straps are a decent replacement for ropes. Anchoring mechanisms are also important. We typically recommend using 4×4 treated wood posts at 10-ft spacing, installed in anchor trenches, and tied to ballasting ropes. Depending on the site and operator’s preference, the supporting architecture may be to lay the post horizontally, while tied to the ballasting ropes, at the bottom of the anchor trench buried in the anchor trench’s backfill material.

Over the years, landfill operators have experienced the savings and value that temporary caps bring to landfill operating budgets, and we’re placing more temporary caps every year. If considering this option, SCS can assist you by evaluating the slopes at your site for the caps. We’ll also prepare estimates for the purchase of material and installation costs and estimated time of recovery for your project.


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 Elevated Temperature Landfills, plus Landfill Design and Construction Quality Assurance. He has nearly 40 years of research and professional experience in mechanical, structural, and civil engineering.

Learn more at Landfill Engineering







Posted by Diane Samuels at 6:00 am

June 24, 2020

landfill gas design
SCS Advice from the Field

Landfills are complex systems with many pipes for liquids and landfill gas running in many different directions. Some of these pipes are at the bottom of the landfill, such as leachate collections pipes, leachate toe drain pipes, pressure release pipes, etc. Other pipes are near the final cover system, either below or above, and closely interact with the final cover geosynthetics. Many of these are for control of landfill gas or leachate seeps at the landfill surface. Pipes may include vertical gas wells, horizontal gas wells, condensate sumps, condensate force main, compressed air lines to gas well pumps and condensate sumps, seep control sumps, electric conduits to condensate sumps and seep control sumps, leachate recirculation force main, stormwater downchutes, etc.

When pipe locations are near the final cover geosynthetics, below or above, or penetrating the final cover, design plans should show details of how the pipes or associated components interact with the final cover components. Lack of sufficient information may cause difficulties years later when scheduling the construction of the final cover. Most often, it becomes evident that many of the pipes constructed years earlier are too short for extending through the final cover.

Another aspect of piping and their interaction with the final cover is conflicts among different pipes, more specifically conflicts among gas pipes and liquid carrying pipes, in and near the final cover system. Liquid carrying pipes may include stormwater downchutes, rainwater toe drain pipes, and leachate toe drain pipes. Stormwater downchutes are usually large diameter pipes extending from the top of the landfill to the perimeter stormwater system. Rainwater toe drain pipes – pipes that receive water from the final cover geocomposite drainage layer, and leachate toe drain pipes – to collect leachate seeps below the final cover geomembrane, are co-located at terraces on slopes and the toe of the slope near the perimeter berm.

A few design considerations can be useful as guidelines during the preparation of design sets to address the relative position of these pipes and the final cover geosynthetics or to avoid conflict among pipes.

  • Include the final cover layers in the gas design details where gas wells installations exist near the landfill’s final surface.
  • If flow control valves locations are below the final cover near the perimeter of the landfill, design a vertical casing around the valve tall enough that booting the future final cover to the vertical casing is possible.
  • Condensate sumps and associated stub outs (such as condensate force main, compressed air lines, or electric conduits) installations should be tall enough to accommodate construction of the final cover system around the condensate sump with sufficient space to boot the final cover geomembrane to the exterior walls of the condensate sump.
  • Leave pipes exiting the liner boundary at the perimeter of the landfill at least 1 foot above the anchor trench shoulder. This allows the installation of a geomembrane boot on the pipe at the point of penetration through the final cover geomembrane.
  • Flow control valves located near the landfill perimeter and within the lined area should be in consideration with the future location of a rainwater toe drain system at the toe of the slope.
  • Gas pipes located above the final cover geomembrane and crossing terraces or access roads may create conflict with the rainwater toe drain at the terrace or adjacent to the road.
  • Large gas headers located across the slope above the final cover geomembrane may cause conflict with stormwater downchutes.
  • Large gas pipes on top of the final cover geomembrane crossing a tack-on swale may cause conflict with the flow line of the tack-on swale.

The complexity of landfills varies from site to site, and issues related to conflicts among gas and liquids pipes, and pipes and final cover geosynthetics vary depending on the geometry and other landfill features involved at each location. The best way to resolve conflicts before construction is to have a coordinated effort among parties involved in the design to discuss and find solutions to every conflict at the design stage.


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.

Learn more at Landfill Engineering







Posted by Diane Samuels at 6:03 am