Generation of Leachate and the Flow Regime in Landfills

University dissertation from Department of Water Resources Engineering, Lund Institute of Technology, Lund University

Abstract: The environmental impacts of landfills are associated mainly with the emission of leachate and biogas. Sanitary landfilling aims to stabilize the landfill in a efficient and controlled way, so that the environmental impacts are minimized. When a sanitary landfill has attained its final storage quality, it can be integrated into the environment. Both the presence and the flux of water play key roles in the stabilization process. Water redistributes chemicals, microorganisms and nutrients within the landfill. It is also needed for the first step in the anaerobic degradation process, that is, hydrolysis. In this thesis the generation of leachate and the presence and movement of water in landfilled municipal solid waste (MSW) is investigated. The precipitation-leachate discharge relationship for landfills was found to be dominated by evaporation, accumulation in the soil cover, accumulation in the solid waste and fast gravitational flow in a network of channels. The flow regime is governed by the heterogeneity of the internal geometry of the landfill, which is characterized by a discrete structure, significant horizontal stratification (resulting from the disposal procedure), structural voids, impermeable surfaces, and low capillarity. Also the boundary conditions, that is the water input pattern, has shown to be important for the flow process. Based on this, landfilled waste can be conceptualized as a dual domain medium, consisting of a channel domain and a matrix domain. The matrix flow is slow and diffusive, whereas the channel flow is assumed to be driven solely by gravity and to take place as a thin viscous film on solid surfaces. A kinematic wave model for unsaturated infiltration and internal drainage in the channel domain is presented. The model employs a two-parameter power expression as macroscopic flux law. Solutions were derived for the cases when water enters the channel domain laterally and when water enters from the upper end. The model parameters were determined and interpreted in terms of the internal geometry of the waste medium by fitting the model to one set of infiltration and drainage data derived from a large scale laboratory experiment under transient conditions. The model was validated using another set of data from a sequence of water input events and was shown to perform accurately. A solute transport model was developed by coupling a simple piston flux expression and a mobile-immobile conceptualization of the transport domains with the water flow model. Breakthrough curves derived from steady and transient tracer experiments where interpreted with the model. The transport process was found to be dependent on the boundary conditions.

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