Landfill Top Covers

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The purpose of the final cover of a landfill is to contain the waste and to provide for a physical separation between the waste and the environment for protection of public health. Most landfill covers are designed with the primary goal to reduce or prevent infiltration of precipitation into the landfill in order to minimize leachate generation. In addition the cover also has to control the release of gases produced in the landfill so the gas can be ventilated, collected and utilized, or oxidized in situ. The landfill cover should also minimize erosion and support vegetation. Finally the cover is landscaped in order to fit into the surrounding area/environment or meet specific plans for the final use of the landfill. To fulfill the above listed requirements landfill covers are often multicomponent systems which are placed directly on top of the waste. The top cover may be placed immediately after the landfill section has been filled or several years later depending on the settlement patterns. Significant differential settlements may disturb the functioning of the top cover. The specific design of the cover system depends on the type of waste landfilled (municipal, hazardous, or inert waste) and the requirement for protection of the local environment/situation (climatology, morphology, etc.). At modern landfills the cover system is only one of the environmental protection measures which often also include leachate and gas collection and subsequently treatment or recovery. At old abandoned landfills however, top covers may be the only environmental protection measure. In some landfill regulations (for instance the Subtitle D landfills receiving municipal solid waste in the USA) it is required to minimize infiltration into the waste layers. Therefore top covers containing liner components such as lowpermeability clay soils and geomembranes are required. The avoidance of water input to organic waste may impede the microbial stabilization processes including gas generation. Therefore watertight top covers may be in conflict with the purposes of reactor landfills (see Chapter 10.6). At some sites covers sometimes are made to include components for recirculation of landfill leachate (see Section 10.9.2 for more details). The top cover is an important factor in the water management of landfills. Details about water infiltration through top covers and its influence on the hydrology of the landfill is covered in Chapter 10.3 on landfill hydrology. This chapter provides an overview on the components of traditional top covers used at landfills and the alternatives used for meeting other requirements (such as leachate recirculation or passive gas management by microbial oxidation processes).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSolid Waste Technology and Management
VolumeVolume 2. Chapter 10.9
Place of PublicationChichester, West Sussex, UK
Publication date2011
ISBN (Print)978-1-405-17517-3
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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