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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Bioremediation and Biodegradation

Attenuation of Methane and Volatile Organic Compounds in Landfill Soil Covers


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 33 No. 1, p. 61-71
    Received: Nov 13, 2002

    * Corresponding author(s): chs@er.dtu.dk
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  1. Charlotte Scheutz *,
  2. Hans Mosbæk and
  3. Peter Kjeldsen
  1. Environment & Resources, Bygningstorvet-Building 115, Technical University of Denmark, DK-2800 Lyngby, Denmark


The potential for natural attenuation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in landfill covers was investigated in soil microcosms incubated with methane and air, simulating the gas composition in landfill soil covers. Soil was sampled at Skellingsted Landfill at a location emitting methane. In total, 26 VOCs were investigated, including chlorinated methanes, ethanes, ethenes, fluorinated hydrocarbons, and aromatic hydrocarbons. The soil showed a high capacity for methane oxidation resulting in very high oxidation rates of between 24 and 112 μg CH4 g−1 h−1 All lower chlorinated compounds were shown degradable, and the degradation occurred in parallel with the oxidation of methane. In general, the degradation rates of the chlorinated aliphatics were inversely related to the chlorine to carbon ratios. For example, in batch experiments with chlorinated ethylenes, the highest rates were observed for vinyl chloride (VC) and lowest rates for trichloroethylene (TCE), while tetrachloroethylene (PCE) was not degraded. Maximal oxidation rates for the halogenated aliphatic compounds varied between 0.03 and 1.7 μg g−1 h−1 Fully halogenated hydrocarbons (PCE, tetrachloromethane [TeCM], chlorofluorocarbon [CFC]-11, CFC-12, and CFC-113) were not degraded in the presence of methane and oxygen. Aromatic hydrocarbons were rapidly degraded giving high maximal oxidation rates (0.17–1.4 μg g−1 h−1). The capacity for methane oxidation was related to the depth of oxygen penetration. The methane oxidizers were very active in oxidizing methane and the selected trace components down to a depth of 50 cm below the surface. Maximal oxidation activity occurred in a zone between 15 and 20 cm below the surface, as this depth allowed sufficient supply of both methane and oxygen. Mass balance calculations using the maximal oxidation rates obtained demonstrated that landfill soil covers have a significant potential for not only methane oxidation but also cometabolic degradation of selected volatile organics, thereby reducing emissions to the atmosphere.

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