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Alternate Liner Systems at Illinois Landfills

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An abstract of the research paper of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, for House Resolution 715 of the State of Illinois 92nd General Assembly.

Title: A Study of the Merits and Effectiveness of Alternate Liner Systems at Illinois Landfills

The 92nd General Assembly directed the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to study the merits and effectiveness of multiple liner systems at Illinois landfills and provide a recommendation on the advisability of requiring multiple liner systems at all future municipal solid waste landfills. This report analyzes current liner designs, evaluates the design's effectiveness and relative cost, and evaluates other alternate multiple liner designs including their cost and effectiveness. This report evaluates the current minimum liner design standard in Illinois for municipal solid waste landfills of a single liner system. Analysis of the single liner system's effectiveness for protection of human health and the environment is presented with an evaluation of the double-composite liner design for municipal solid waste landfills. This report includes a summary of regulatory requirements from other states for comparison. Finally an evaluation of the relative cost of liner designs is provided.

An evaluation of the effectiveness of the liner design standards of the existing Illinois regulations is not as straightforward as it would appear. The liner design for municipal solid waste landfills relies on the collection and removal of liquids from the landfill to effectively protect human health and the environment. The Illinois regulations specify minimum design standards and also require an evaluation of the design in the specific geologic and hydrogeologic setting. The evaluation of the specific design can result in additional requirements beyond the minimum design standard including, but not limited to, a double-composite liner system.

Modifying the Illinois regulations to change the minimum liner design requirement from a single liner to a double-composite liner is not recommended at this time. Given the compromises that arise due to the complicated construction of double-composite lined municipal solid waste landfills, there is a much better chance of successfully completing construction of the liner if the design is kept simple. Also the additional cost of a double-composite liner is substantial without corresponding protection, except where shown to be necessary for the specific geologic and hydrogeologic setting. The current minimum technical requirements contained in the Illinois regulations are protective of human health and the environment.

A draft copy of this report was forwarded to Dr. David E. Daniel, P.E., Dean, College of Engineering at the University of Illinois for his review and comment. Dr. Daniel is a published expert on landfill design, specifically liners. In his review Dr. Daniel stated that "(t)o the best of my knowledge, there has been no documented instance of groundwater contamination anywhere in the U.S. as a result of leakage through single-composite liner systems, such as required in Illinois… In my view, the key issue to protect groundwater from landfills is not how many liners are used, but assurance that the liners are properly constructed, and construction verified through a very thorough construction quality assurance programů I agree with the report's conclusion that modifying Illinois regulations to require double liners is not recommended at this time.


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