Comparative Microbiology of Typical and Elevated Temperature Landfills

Investigator: University of Illinois, Chicago

Start Date:
March 2017

Award Amount:
$120,000

While the basic microbial processes of anaerobic decomposition in landfills have been well-known for decades, studies of microbial diversity using modern sequencing technologies, which make it possible to cheaply and efficiently catalog microbial diversity, are rare. Due to the current interest in elevated temperature landfills, the opportunity exists to study microbial ecology in tandem with multiphase geochemical indicators (gaseous, liquid, solid for major ions, metals, and dissolved inorganic and organic carbon) to address deviations from standard microbial processes. Landfills are largely unaffected by the heterogeneity of the waste, however, environmental heterogeneity provides a host of potential ecological functions that may be directly or indirectly contributing to the formation of “elevated temperature” conditions and the profile of gas compositions observed. The goal of this project is to aid in the determination of the causes and indications of elevated temperature landfill development, towards distinguishing between biotic and abiotic processes responsible.

The objectives are to:

  1. Generate baseline microbiological data that can inform ongoing work
  2. Identify metabolic genes that lend potential for atypical landfill function
  3. Identify microbial processes that may yield the gas mixtures observed in elevated temperature landfills
  4. Identify microbial processes that may directly/indirectly enhance the abiotic process rates driving elevated temperatures