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The effectiveness of composite lining systems in controlling the leakage of leachate from sanitary landfills to groundwater

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Leachate, the hazardous liquid that percolated through the refuse layers of a sanitary landfill, if it leaks through the landfill lining system, can become a serious source of groundwater pollution. In the past, leaks have been detected in many landfills lined with flexible membrane liners (FML) whose failure may be attributed to flaws such as imperfect seaming, rips, and tears of the membrane, or from chemical attack that dissolves the membrane. Recent studies have shown that composite lining systems which include either a clayey subbase or a layer of geotextile in addition to the FML, can substantially reduce the leakage of leachate. Therefore in this study, four different lining systems are proposed and evaluated to determine their effectiveness in controlling leachate flow under various degree of flaws (referred to as leakage fraction LF) in the FML. The Hydrologic Evaluation of Landfill Performance (HELP) computer model of the Environmental Protection Agency of USA, currently the most widely accepted model for predicting the performance of leachate collection systems in that country, is used to evaluate the following lining systems: (1) a single FML or liner, (2) a single FML with a clayey composite, (3) a single FML with a geotextile called Claymax, and (4) a double FML. Based on the climatic conditions and the present lining construction cost of Alaska, the study shows that a single FML or liner is the most economical but it is also the least effective in controlling leachate flow. Design (3), a single FML with a geotextile, costs about 50 percent more but it reduces the leakage of leachate by several orders. Design (2) is also effective but the cost incurred in constructing a 3 feet thick clayey subbase is prohibitive and thus to effectively and economically minimize the hazards of potential groundwater contamination by leachate, Design (3) is recommended as the composite lining system for future landfill sites.

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Correspondence to Thian Yew Gan.

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Gan, T.Y., Friesen, G. The effectiveness of composite lining systems in controlling the leakage of leachate from sanitary landfills to groundwater. Environ Monit Assess 19, 193–202 (1991). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00401311

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  • Landfill Site
  • Groundwater Pollution
  • Lining System
  • Potential Groundwater
  • Sanitary Landfill