The EPA Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) requires landfill operators to maintain post-closure care for 30 years, though states will adjust the term according to when they determine ending this care will not threaten human health or the environment. Industry stakeholders say it’s not enough guidance because it does not provide how states should assess for impact on human health or the environment, nor how to determine when to transition from active post-closure care to custodial care. Regulators tend to default to an extension of terms. Again data collection plays a significant role in determining the post-closure care term.
“The whole purpose of the post-closure care term is to provide enough time for landfills to become stable. One way to assess is by determining if functional stability has been achieved, which entails looking at performance metrics like leachate management, settlement, landfill gas control, and groundwater monitoring,” says Bob Gardner, of SCS Engineers.
Looking at these metrics, once it’s determined that functional stability has been achieved, these active systems may be able to be turned off, with only passive controls like cover remaining in place.
Monitoring may be done less frequently or not at all. “EPA acknowledges that back in the 1980s, it did not know how systems, primarily liner systems, would perform under new Subtitle D rules. But based on monitoring of these systems over the past 25 years, we know that they perform well to prevent migration of contaminants to groundwater,” says Gardner.
Read the Waste360 article Stakeholders Call for More Certain Landfill Post-closure Care Terms
Investigate why over 600 landfills use SCS eTools® to track, report, and store important data.
Even the simplest impoundment closures come with design challenges. It is a challenge to navigate project constraints, whether technical, regulatory, or financial, to design and implement an effective closure strategy. Cost often helps to determine the “balance” between project constraints when the future end use of a closed CCR surface impoundment or the property it occupies is undefined. When a post-closure end use is defined, finding balance among project constraints to best serve that future use provides rewarding challenges.
SCS Engineers has navigated this balancing act on impoundment closure projects during generating facility decommissioning. Through a presentation of case studies, you can learn how this team has approached ash pond closure planning and execution where the future use of the impoundment site ranged from undefined to the home of a new solar photovoltaic installation. Examples also include potential future industrial use or property sale.
Case studies will highlight how geotechnical, hydrological, regulatory, or simple physical constraints have influenced the design and implementation of CCR surface impoundment closures.
EUEC 2019 in San Diego, February 25-27, 2019. Conference details here.
As more and more landfill closure projects were built using geomembranes as the final cover barrier layer over the past 20 years, the issue of handling water in the final cover drainage layer became more prominent. Precipitation on closed portions of a landfill leaves the landfill basin in three ways: (1) runoff; (2) percolating into the final cover upper soil layer and then evaporating back out into the atmosphere by evapotranspiration; and (3) percolating into the final cover upper soil layer and reaching the final cover drainage layer, flowing through the drainage layer to the bottom of the landfill slope, and leaving the landfill basin through discharge points to the landfill perimeter ditch. Addressing the runoff component is relatively straightforward because for decades engineers have been designing various types of conveyance systems to handle surface water runoff. Mother Nature takes care of the second component.
The third component, however, took many years to be engineered properly. SCS developed one of the best-engineered systems over 18 years ago and perfected the design over the following five years. The perfected design has been incorporated into the permits of many landfills and implemented at many closure construction events. As a commitment to the efficiency of the design, SCS has been monitoring the performance of many of these closure projects during rain events to gather data and ensure that nothing unexpected occurs during the more severe storm events.
SCS’s system involves a perforated collection pipe embedded in gravel, wrapped in geotextile, and placed in a depression created by a geomembrane flap near the bottom of the slope. The geomembrane flap is welded to the final cover geomembrane and supported in a depressed shape by the upper soil layer of the final cover system. The drainage layer geocomposite ends at the bottom of the depression, delivering the water in the geocomposite into the pipe-gravel-geotextile positioned inside the depression. Installation of the geomembrane flap is at a sloping grade; therefore, the collection pipe ends up sloping toward a low point where a drain pipe that is perpendicular to the perforated pipe takes the water out of the depression and delivers it to the landfill perimeter ditch. The system is fairly easy to install and almost guarantees proper removal of water from the final cover drainage layer. Although other engineers have designed many varieties of such systems, the SCS system has a proven track record with no glitches or side effects at the bottom of the landfill slope.
Some other systems, because of the inherent shortcomings in the design, either don’t remove all of the water from the geocomposite drainage layer, or they clog at the discharge point. Sometimes the water coming through the system adversely affects other landfill components, such as the perimeter berm integrity. Additionally, complexities during construction of the system can conflict with the storm water down chute pipes or landfill gas pipes that may exist above the cover system geomembrane.
In addition to writing the SCS Engineers blog series SCS Advice from the Field, Dr. Khatami speaks about SCS blog topics at SWANA national and local chapter conferences. His webinar Design Leachate Collection Pipes to Eliminate Clogging of Geotextiles will be presented on June 29, 2016. Use the links below to learn more about Dr. Khatami’s advanced landfill designs which last longer and help prevent common operational challenges over time.
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.
If you are looking to design a final cover for your landfill, please contact SCS. We will review your particular needs and the existing conditions at your facility and will recommend a proper design that suits your site conditions. SCS will also provide you with construction recommendations and an estimate for construction of the system. Furthermore, SCS will gladly incorporate the final design into your facility permit and prepare construction drawings for implementation of the system.