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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 19 No. 2, p. 281-288
    Received: Apr 10, 1989

    * Corresponding author(s):
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A Water Balance Study of Two Landfill Cover Designs for Semiarid Regions

  1. J. W. Nyhan *,
  2. T. E. Hakonson and
  3. B. J. Drennon
  1. Los Alamos Natl. Lab., Environmental Science Group, Mail Stop J495, Los Alamos, NM 87545.



The results from several field experiments on methods to control soil erosion, biointrusion, and water infiltration were used to design and test an enhanced landfill cover that improves the ability of the disposal site to isolate buried wastes. The performance of the improved cover design in managing water and biota at the disposal site was compared for 3 yr with that obtained from a more conventional design that has been widely used in the industry. The conventional cover design consisted of 20 cm of sandy loam topsoil over 108 cm of a sandy silt backfill, whereas the improved design consists of 71 cm of topsoil over a minimum of 46 cm of gravel, 91 cm of river cobble, and 38 cm of sandy silt backfill. Each plot was lined with an impermeable liner to allow for mass balance calculation of water dynamics. Results over a 3-yr period, including 2 wet yr, demonstrated that the improved design reduced percolation of water through the landfill cover by a factor of >4 over the conventional design. This decrease in percolation was attributed to a combination of increased evapotranspiration from the plant cover and the effect of a capillary barrier embedded in the enhanced cover profile in diverting water laterally in the cover. The field data are finally discussed in terms of its usefulness for waste management decisions to be made in the future for both new and existing landfills at Los Alumos, NM, and at other semiarid waste disposal sites.

Research funded under contract no. W-7405-Eng. 36 between the Natl. Low Level Waste Management Program of the U.S. Dep. of Energy and the Environmental Science Group of the Los Alamos Natl. Lab.

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