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Gomathy Radhakrishna Iyer

Gomathy Radhakrishna Iyer

University of Texas at Arlington, Ph.D.
Evergreen Surety Bond Scholarship Scholar 2016

Development of Landfill Bio Covers from Yardwaste to Oxidize Methane Escaping Landfill

Project Description:
Landfills are the 3rd largest anthropogenic source of methane emissions, or 18% of the US total (US EPA, 2013). Innovative landfill cover materials can play an important role in oxidizing methane escaping landfills to the less-potent carbon dioxide. In particular, biocovers are biologically active landfill covers designed to facilitate microbial oxidation of methane to carbon dioxide. A potentially innovative biocover material is yard waste, which constitutes 13.5% of US municipal solid waste (MSW) generation (US EPA, 2013). Currently, most landfills segregate yard waste and use it for making compost. Composting, although theoretically fully aerobic, in actuality has anaerobic regions which generate methane. Using yard waste directly – without composting – as a landfill cover would reduce methane emissions associated with composting, as well as time and effort required. No previous study has tested yard waste without composting as a landfill cover material. To make an effective biocover, however, yard waste will need to be combined with other materials to lower its C/N ratio and hydraulic conductivity. Biosolids and fly ash are other waste materials which can be added to yard waste to address these two respective issues.

Gomathy’s research focuses on developing a landfill biocover containing yard waste, in combination with biosolids and fly ash, to promote methane oxidation. Her specific objectives are:

  1. To measure physical/chemical properties of potential biocover materials, including yard waste (leaves, grass clippings, branches), biosolids, and fly ash
  2. To assess the potential of various ratios of yard waste materials, biosolids, and fly ash to oxidize methane, using batch and column tests
  3. To model methane oxidation efficiency of the yard waste covers using CALMIM
  4. To test the best-performing yard waste cover mixtures in a field setting at a real landfill.

The expected outcome of Gomathy’s research is a landfill biocover which beneficially re-uses yard waste and biosolids, and oxidizes the greenhouse gas methane to less-potent carbon dioxide.

Gomathy was born and raised in India. She obtained her Baccalaureate in Civil Engineering from Mar Baselios College of Engineering & Technology, University of Kerala, and Master of Technology (M. Tech) from Anna University, India. Her Master’s research focused on Solute transport modeling of heavy metal ions of an urban aquifer. Later on, Gomathy continued her research interests at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) as Research as project associate. During this period at IIT-M, she researched on efficiency of treatment units at waste water treatment plants of South India and septage management through composting.

She moved to the USA to pursue her higher studies in Civil and Environmental Engineering at The University of Texas at Arlington, Texas. Gomathy joined the University of Texas at Arlington in Fall 2016, and is currently pursuing her doctoral degree program. Gomathy’s interest is focused on solid waste management, and she looks forward to implement her knowledge to solve solid waste management problems in India. Apart from her research, Gomathy’s interests include music, cooking, and painting.