Understanding and Predicting Temperatures in Municipal Solid Waste Landfills

Investigators: University of Virginia, North Carolina State University, City College of New York, Geosyntec Consultants

Start Date:
Dec 2014

Award Amount:
$1,060,591

While there are a number of landfills in North America that are experiencing elevated temperatures, there is only anecdotal evidence as to the underlying cause. Some of these elevated temperature landfills have received industrial wastes that are known to release heat, but others have not. Some elevated temperature landfills are deeper and wetter than average, but others are not. Elevated temperatures have posed regulatory challenges, and in several cases have resulted in costly operations and management, pressure to initiate uncertain remedial actions, and litigation associated with off-site migration of gases and odors caused by elevated temperatures.

The objectives of this study are to ( i ) definitively and comprehensively understand and explain why some landfill temperatures become elevated and (ii) to develop and validate a methodology to predict temperatures within landfills, particularly elevated temperature conditions. We propose an approach that involves applied research in the three integrated areas:

  1. Critical Analysis of Existing Information: Develop a comprehensive review and analysis of existing information that pertains to heat accumulation in landfills. This review will include literature data, analysis of elevated temperature landfill site characteristics, and a comprehensive review of data from landfills with atypical temperatures.
  2. Mechanism Identification and Model Parameterization: Define the chemical reactions that contribute to excessive heat accumulation, with a focus on the temperature regime above which biological reactions contribute to heat. Develop a comprehensive knowledge base of the parameters used to describe these reactions as well as the parameters that control heat transport within landfills.
  3. Formulation, Validation, and Calibration of Temperature Prediction Methodology: Develop a methodology to predict heat accumulation in landfills that is based on thermodynamic principles and accounts for all significant heat sources and sinks. Validate and calibrate the methodology using field data from elevated temperature landfills, and provide examples based on existing elevated temperature landfills that illustrate how the methodology can be used to predict elevated temperatures and/or evaluate remediation strategies.

At the completion of this project, landfill owners and operators will have a practical and validated methodology to predict heat accumulation in landfills. The methodology can then be used to develop practical best management practices that prevent excessive heat generation, and evaluate the feasibility of remediation strategies. We plan to collaborate with the EREF Project Stakeholder Group (PSG), and other industry experts throughout the study to ensure that the technical approach is informed by field experience. The findings will also be available to EREF and the PSG throughout the study via regularly scheduled webinars and stakeholder meetings as well as annual reports and journal articles.