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WMR0010.1177/0734242X12453610Laner et al.Waste Management & Research

Original Article

Waste Management & Research

Site-specific criteria for the

30(9) Supplement 8899
The Author(s) 2012
Reprints and permission:
completion of landfill aftercare
DOI: 10.1177/0734242X12453610

David Laner, Johann Fellner and Paul H Brunner

Municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills need to be managed after closure to assure long-term environmental compatibility. Aftercare
can be completed when the authorities consider the landfill not likely to pose a threat to humans and the environment. In this
work, a methodology for deriving site-specific aftercare completion criteria is presented and its application is illustrated via a case
study. The evaluation method combines models addressing waste emission behavior, long-term barrier performance, and pollutant
migration to assess the potential impact of landfill emissions on the environment. Based on the definition of acceptable impact levels
at certain points of compliance, scenario- and pollutant-specific aftercare completion criteria are derived. The methodology was
applied to a closed MSW landfill in Austria and potential aftercare durations were determined. While landfill gas emissions may
become environmentally tolerable within decades at the site, leachate-related aftercare measures were expected to be necessary for
centuries (primarily as a result of ammonium). Although the evaluation comes with large uncertainties, it allows for linking aftercare
intensity and duration with respect to an environmentally compatible state of the landfill in the absence of aftercare. However, further
case studies including regulatory review and acceptance are needed to use the methodology in a decision support tool on aftercare

Landfill aftercare, landfill emissions, completion criteria, post-closure care, scenario analysis, MSW landfill, case study

Landfills are key elements in modern waste management, as duration of aftercare) and for supporting authorities decisions
they represent anthropogenic sinks for substances which cannot on the extension, reduction or completion of aftercare (Barlaz et
be recovered for economic or ecologic reasons. In general, land- al., 2002). Therefore, it is the aim of this work to introduce a
fills need to be managed after closure to assure the long-term methodology for defining site-specific aftercare completion cri-
protection of humans and the environment. This aftercare period teria and to illustrate its application to a closed MSW landfill.
typically comprises the monitoring of landfill emissions (e.g. While the evaluation methodology is applicable to different
leachate) and receiving systems (e.g. groundwater), and the kinds of landfills in principle (Laner, 2011), in this article the
maintenance and control of landfill facilities (e.g. cover, lea- focus is put on municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills. On the
chate collection and treatment), as well as site surveillance (e.g. one hand MSW landfills have been, or still are, the major waste
restricted access and use). It can be brought to an end when the disposal option in many parts of the world. On the other hand,
authorities consider the landfill to no longer pose a threat to emissions from these landfills, mainly associated with the
humans and the environment in the absence of aftercare (e.g. degradation of organic matter and the leaching of inorganic
European Parliament, 1999). While simple qualitative criteria components (e.g. Bookter and Ham, 1982; El-Fadel et al., 1997;
are often suggested as a basis to evaluate aftercare, rigorous Farquhar and Rovers, 1973; Kjeldsen et al., 2002), may be of
methodologies and data to evaluate aftercare and aftercare com- potential environmental significance for many decades or centu-
pletion are difficult to build and are rarely available (Laner ries (Belevi and Baccini, 1989; Krmpelbeck, 2000). Hence,
et al., 2012). Different approaches have been suggested to eval- environmentally-protective and cost-efficient strategies for the
uate landfill aftercare and its completion (e.g. Environment long-term management of these landfills are urgently needed.
Agency, 2010; Morris and Barlaz, 2011; Scharff et al., 2011;
Stegmann et al. 2006), but a consistent methodology to derive Institute for Water Quality, Resource and Waste Management, Vienna
University of Technology, Vienna, Austria
aftercare completion criteria in view of long-term environmen-
tal risks associated with a closed landfill has not yet been estab- Corresponding author:
lished. However, such a methodology is needed as a basis for David Laner, Institute for Water Quality, Resource and Waste
Management, Vienna University of Technology, Karlsplatz 13, 1040
the design of appropriate funding accrual mechanisms for after- Vienna, Austria
care (i.e. by reducing the uncertainty about the intensity and Email:

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Laner et al. 89

Figure 1. Illustration of the procedure to derive aftercare completion criteria at a closed landfill site.

First, we present a methodology to evaluate landfill environ- certain criteria have to be met. These elements are combined to
mental compatibility via deriving site-specific aftercare com- derive site-specific completion criteria. Subsequent to the eval-
pletion criteria. In this work aftercare completion is defined as uation, monitoring of emission levels and criteria related to the
the end of regulated aftercare (landfill owner is released from state of the landfill (e.g. geotechnical stability, cover performance)
the responsibility for the site) because the closed landfill is not is carried out to either confirm the models underlying the evalu-
likely to present a threat to human health and the environment ation or to adapt the models to incorporate the new observations.
in the absence of aftercare. In the subsequent section the appli- The procedure to derive completion criteria for a closed landfill
cation of the evaluation methodology to a closed MSW landfill is schematically illustrated in Figure 1.
in Austria is illustrated and potential aftercare durations are
determined based on site-specific completion criteria. Finally,
Characterization of the landfill-
we discuss the application of the evaluation methodology as a
basis to optimize landfill long-term management and provide an
environment system
outlook on potential future research activities. The basis of the evaluation is the collection of data and infor-
mation about the conditions at a site (e.g. climate, geology,
topographic location), the containment system (i.e. technical
Method to determine aftercare
barriers), and the deposited waste and associated emissions
completion criteria (see Figure 1). In general, data need to be critically evaluated.
The evaluation of landfill environmental compatibility needs to For monitoring data this means, for instance, checking the
address different aspects significant to the environmental representativeness of the sampling location, measurement
impact associated with a landfill. These include the behavior of protocols, collection efficiencies or leachate discharge rates
the deposited waste and associated emissions, the (long-term) during sampling. Monitoring at closed landfills could be opti-
performance of the technical barrier system, and the migration mized by gathering information in view of the situation at the
of pollutants in environmental media and potential adverse site and the significance of the data for modeling purposes
effects on the environment. In essence, the evaluation of after- (e.g. Zweifel et al., 1999). For instance, measurements includ-
care and its completion resembles a site-specific endeavor about ing a wide range of parameters could be done once every few
acceptable risks (Scharff et al., 2011). years, whereas routine monitoring could be restricted to a few
The methodology to derive aftercare completion criteria parameters (e.g. electric conductivity, leachate discharge rate,
consists of several elements: (i) models on emission charac- ammonium, and total organic carbon) measured at a higher
teristics; (ii) models on the performance of the containment sys- frequency/resolution to gain process understanding for model
tem (iii) substance migration models in the environment (i.e. development. Provided that conditions at the site are constant
subsurface environment); and (iv) points of compliance where (e.g. after top cover installation) the observation of a few

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90 Waste Management & Research 30(9) Supplement

parameters can also allow for statements about the behavior noted that gas collection efficiency is always below 100% and
of other parameters for which correlations have been estab- that other factors need to be considered when using measured
lished (e.g. Kylefors, 2003; Laner et al., 2011b). In all cases, gas data (e.g. suction of air in active gas collection, potentially
input data and models are uncertain, at least as a result of occurring methane oxidation processes in the landfill cover, etc.).
natural variability, and should be treated accordingly (e.g. Technical barriers typically consist of several components
Gibbons and Bull, 2006). with low-permeability mineral layers (e.g. clay liners), geomem-
branes (e.g. high density polyethylene (HDPE) liners), geosyn-
thetic clay layers, drainage layers and recultivation layers being
Emission parameters and scenario
among the most important ones. The performance of the techni-
analysis cal barrier system is the product of the interaction of the different
Environmentally significant emission parameters are identified elements. In the short term the most important factors with
based on the observations at the site and waste characterization respect to barrier performance are proper design and construc-
data (e.g. shaking leaching tests). The concentrations of relevant tion of the system and geotechnical stability issues (Bonaparte
leachate constituents are predicted based on the model suggested et al., 2002), while the long-term performance is dependent pri-
by Belevi and Baccini (1989), which is adapted to consider water marily on the stresses induced on the system (Inyang, 2004). The
flow heterogeneity and the continuous release of substances due elements of a technical barrier system have different service
to ongoing organic degradation processes (Laner et al., 2011a). lives. Estimates of the long-term performance of different barrier
According to the model, the substance concentrations in the lea- components (under the assumption that no maintenance and
chate decrease exponentially with the increase of liquid-to-solid repair is taking place) range from several decades for leachate
ratio (amount of water in liters that passed through 1 kg of waste drainage systems to geologic time periods (thousands of years)
dry matter) of the deposited waste. To establish the model, infor- for low-permeability mineral liners (e.g. Rowe, 2005). As field
mation about the initial leachate concentrations (after landfill data are lacking to evaluate the long-term performance of con-
closure and after gas generation has significantly dropped), the tainment systems, a set of scenarios is used to illustrate the effect
mobilizable amount of substances of the waste, the heterogene- of different containment system performance levels on landfill
ity of water flow through the waste, the rate of water infiltration emissions. A first scenario assumes an unchanged performance
per year and the amount of landfilled waste is necessary. The of the barrier system; a second one investigates the slow deterio-
model parameters are determined based on investigations of the ration of the technical barriers and a consequent decrease of the
landfilled waste and available monitoring data at the site (gathered barrier performance levels; and a third one is used to illustrate the
in step 1 of Figure 1). The model is fitted to emission character- effect of a total failure of the containment system. The barrier
istics observed after landfill closure and estimates on future performance levels are estimated based on an evaluation of the
leachate composition are derived with the calibrated model as a actual system design and function and, in case of an expected
function of liquid-to-solid ratio. However, it should be noted that gradual performance decrease over time, on a weighting matrix
the described emission model assumes constant water flow pat- derived from expert interviews assessing the importance of dif-
terns within the landfilled waste and no change of the dominant ferent factors for long-term performance (for detailed informa-
release mechanisms. Thus, within a scenario to investigate the effect tion about the barrier evaluation scheme see Laner et al. (2011b)
of a change in the landfills water flow pattern, the emission or Laner (2011)). The different barrier performance levels are
model would have to be adapted to account for a re-distribution combined with appropriate emission models (e.g. constant
of water in the waste and a potential increase in leachate concen- release mechanisms and unaltered water flow pattern are assumed)
tration levels (Laner et al., 2011a). and scenario-based emission estimates are derived. However, as
Mathematical models to describe the rate of landfill gas gen- the estimated barrier performance levels are highly speculative,
eration in a landfill are typically based on first order kinetics they should not be seen as reliable predictions, but as specific
(Barlaz et al., 1990). The models differ with respect to their scenario conditions used to highlight the effect of different bar-
complexity and with respect to basic assumptions on the bio- rier deterioration patterns. Overall, the layout and number of
degradability of organic matter (i.e. degradation rate or half-life emission scenarios is dependent on potential future conditions at
values for refuse components). In any case, gas generation mod- the site characteristics on the one hand (e.g. site in a flood plain)
els need to be calibrated with site-specific data to allow for and the expected after-use of the landfill on the other (e.g. human
credible projections because actual gas generation is dependent intrusion as an event to be included).
on site-specific factors, such as waste characteristics, moisture
content and distribution, temperature, pH, microbial communi-
Transport pathways and pollutant migration
ties, nutrient availability and the presence of inhibitors. As gas
generation models typically overestimate the amount of gas The scenario-based estimates on future emission levels form the
produced at the site because of the assumption of optimal condi- input for pollutant migration modeling (Figure 1, step 3).
tions (Krmpelbeck, 2000), they should be adapted to fit observed Although several pollutant migration pathways might be relevant
gas collection and/or emission data. However, it should be for a closed landfill (e.g. subsurface migration of landfill gas or

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Laner et al. 91

discharge of collected leachate to surface waters), only the migra- certain point of compliance (e.g. groundwater mixing zone), can
tion of leachate in the subsurface is addressed below. This is be used to calculate tolerable landfill emission levels (i.e. emis-
owing to the potential risk a landfill poses to the groundwater and sions that do not cause a violation of the quality criteria applied
because the leachate pathway is considered to dominate the long- at the PoC) for each scenario. The procedure to determine com-
term pollution potential of MSW landfills (Kjeldsen et al., 2002; pletion criteria for landfill leachate follows a backwards calcula-
Krmpelbeck, 2000). tion from the critical PoC to the source (landfill base). In Figure 2
Leachate seeping from a landfill enters the zone below the AFs specific to a substance and an emission scenario are illus-
landfill and potentially contaminates the groundwater under- trated schematically. Assume 10 mg/l of Cl was the quality crite-
neath. While naturally occurring processes in the subsurface can ria to be fulfilled at PoC 3, then the tolerable concentration of
potentially attenuate pollutants present in landfill leachate, there Cl in the landfill leachate is 200 mg/l (10 mg/l225), using
is no easy-to-use protocol available on how to assess attenuation the data from Figure 2. Thus, if the Cl concentration in the
potentials for a specific environment (Christensen et al., 2000). leachate is 200 mg/l or lower, future leachate emissions will be
The complexity of models to describe substance migration in environmentally tolerable provided that the conditions of the
the subsurface varies from simple screening tables to sophisti- underlying emission scenario are met. Therefore, in addition to
cated numerical models. As the model complexity relates directly the emission criteria the completion of aftercare is associated
to the quality and quantity of data to establish, calibrate and vali- with criteria referring to the underlying emission scenario. For
date the model, rather simple and robust models are used to example, the assumption of optimal containment system perfor-
describe pollutant migration in the subsurface within the evalua- mance within the underlying emission scenario would imply the
tion methodology. On the one hand this is in accordance with the maintenance and repair of the containment system (after the ter-
substantial uncertainties of input data (e.g. projections of emis- mination of aftercare) as a necessary completion criterion. The
sion rates or typically poor data availability on subsurface proper- only emission scenario with no criteria in addition to tolerable
ties at closed landfill sites), but, on the other hand, in a higher tier emissions would be one where the tolerable emission levels
evaluation simpler models could be replaced by more complex relate to scenario conditions of waste without any containment
models, provided that additional data are collected at the site. and fully exposed to external conditions at the site [i.e. waste of
The pollutant migration in the vadose zone below the landfill final storage quality; see Baccini (1989)]. In any case, it will be
is evaluated with the one-dimensional model by Schneider and necessary to outline the basic long-term management within the
Stfen (2004), which is based on the analytical solution of the procedure to derive completion criteria, thereby making the eval-
advection-dispersion equation (see van Genuchten, 1982). In uation of long-term environmental risks more transparent to deci-
the model, a continuous, stationary and downward flow field in sion makers.
the unsaturated zone is assumed without initial pollution of the Landfill gas emissions can be assessed based on acceptable
transport pathway. Processes considered in the model include area-specific methane flow rates into the top cover [a tolerable,
advection, dispersion, diffusion in soil liquid and gas, linear sorp- maximum area-specific inflow of methane to the top cover of 0.5
tion and degradation at a first order rate. As a result, the model liters CH4 m2 h1 has been suggested by Stegmann et al. (2006)]
calculates the maximum pollutant concentration above the or based on tolerable, maximum methane flux to the atmosphere
groundwater surface [a more detailed description of the model [e.g. 0.05 liters CH4 m2 h1, see (Fellner et al., 2008)]. The meth-
features and its application can be found in Laner (2011)]. For ane flux into the top cover is estimated based on the predictions of
scenarios with a varying leachate generation rate (e.g. gradual the gas generation model, assuming homogeneous inflow. Methane
decrease in barrier performance), a mass balance approach is emissions to the atmosphere are calculated in consideration of
used (i.e. the pollutant concentration in the leachate at the time of potentially occurring methane oxidation processes in the cover
maximum load equals the concentration entering the groundwa- (e.g. Huber-Humer, 2004). Constant average annual fractions of
ter). The effect of leachate mixing with groundwater and pollut- oxidized methane are often used [e.g. 10% oxidation is suggested
ant migration in the groundwater are also described with a mass by the IPCC (2007)], although such an approach does not account
balance approach [for more details see Laner (2011)]. The calcu- for the effect of various factors, such as the level of methane flux
lated concentrations at the points of compliance (PoCs) along the into the cover, or climatic conditions on methane oxidation rates
migration pathway represent predicted maximum concentration (Chanton et al., 2011). In general, high methane oxidation rates
levels for the pollutants. should be demonstrated in the field-scale over an extended period
of time before they are used to assess methane emissions to the
atmosphere. Screening models to estimate methane oxidation rates
Determination of completion criteria
should at least consider the methane flux into the top cover.
The estimated maximum concentrations along the migration
pathway are used to derive scenario- and pollutant-specific atten-
uation factors (AFs). The AF between two points of compliance
Confirmation monitoring and
is defined as the ratio of the maximum concentration at the first
to the maximum concentration at the second (AF = Cfirst/Csecond). Confirmation monitoring is necessary after the evaluation to
Subsequently, the AFs, together with specific quality criteria at a underpin model estimates (i.e. emission models), as well as to

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92 Waste Management & Research 30(9) Supplement

Figure 2. Scheme of the subsurface migration pathway with scenario- and substance-specific attenuation factors (AF)
between the different points of compliance (PoC).

observe whether the conditions at the site (e.g. top cover perfor- Site description and landfill design
mance, leachate collection and recovery system) develop in
accordance with the assumptions of the emission scenario The Breitenau experimental landfill is located in Austria, around
underlying the evaluation. If model estimates and scenario 60 km south of Vienna (47 44 37 N, 16 08 28 E). Between
assumptions are supported by the observations, the evaluation 1987 and 1988 approximately 95,000 metric tons of municipal
results and the corresponding completion criteria are validated. solid waste were disposed of in three compartments in a former
In case emissions and/or conditions at the site develop differ- gravel pit. The landfill compartments were equipped with differ-
ently, the evaluation needs to be adapted or repeated to account ent top covers (earthen covers or gravel layers with or without
for the observed landfill behavior. Consequently, it is expected compost on top) and with different sealing systems [i.e. a HDPE
that the application of the evaluation methodology and the membrane with (compartments 1 and 2) or without (compartment 3)
determination of aftercare completion criteria resemble itera- a mineral liner of 1.7-m thickness above] (Riehl-Herwirsch et
tive processes continuously increasing the reliability of the al., 1995). After 20 years of temporary cover, a final cover was
assessment of long-term environmental risks. Therefore, the been constructed in 2009, consisting of an equalization layer
evaluation of the desired state of the landfill at the end of after- above the waste, a composite liner (mineral liner of 0.5 m
care should be started early during the aftercare period to opti- thickness below a HDPE membrane), a drainage layer and a
mize measurements at the site (i.e. goal-oriented monitoring) top soil layer (Laner et al., 2011a). The landfill is extraordinarily
and to increase the reliability of the evaluation models. In any well investigated as it served as an experimental site for
case, it can be expected that the authorities will demand appro- numerous research studies conducted by the Vienna University
priate documentation and model validation before they may of Technology (e.g. Binner et al., 1997; Fellner et al., 2009).
assume the responsibility for a closed landfill and release the
owner from aftercare obligations. After aftercare completion, Emission scenarios
site surveillance assures that the appropriate after-use of the site
Emission models. Extensive monitoring data are available
and pollutant concentrations in the ambient environment are with high resolution for landfill leachate with continuous moni-
monitored to demonstrate no unacceptable impacts. Depending toring of leachate generation rates since June 2001 and of selected
on the long-term emission scenario underlying the evaluation, leachate quality parameters (i.e. electric conductivity and tem-
further activities may be part of the long-term management con- perature) since October 2003 (Laner et al., 2011b). Emission
cept (e.g. cover inspection and maintenance) to be implemented models are established for ammonia-nitrogen (NH4-N), chloride
by the responsible authorities. (Cl) and chemical oxygen demand (COD), as these parameters
still exceed current regulatory standards for the discharge of
leachate into surface water bodies by at least one order of magni-
Case study: Breitenau landfill tude and are expected to be significant for long-term leachate
To illustrate the application of the described methodology, after- pollution at most MSW landfills (Kjeldsen et al., 2002). The mea-
sured concentrations (either measured directly in the storage tank
care completion criteria for the Breitenau landfill are derived and
or the weighted average of leachate measurements for the three
the duration of aftercare is estimated for different (hypothetical)
compartments) of NH4-N, Cl and COD in the leachate are shown
management scenarios. As the Breitenau landfill has been in the
in Figure 3, together with emission model estimates before and
focus of previous studies addressing the emission behavior of the after final cover installation. Although measurements scatter sub-
landfill (Fellner et al., 2009; Laner et al., 2011b), the focus of this stantially along the fitted model curves, a decreasing concentra-
section will not be on detailed data concerning the emission char- tion trend was apparent before top cover installation. However,
acteristics of the landfill, but on the application of the evaluation after the construction of the final cover leachate concentrations of
methodology as a whole. NH4-N, Cl and COD increased by approximately a factor two.

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Laner et al. 93

The major reason for the drastic rise in concentration levels after experiment took place in 2005) until 2009, when the gas collec-
cover installation is supposed to be a partial redistribution of tion system was upgraded in the course of the final cover instal-
water flow paths in the waste body due to the construction of the lation to treat the produced landfill gas in a biofilter. Because of
cover (particularly because of the re-arrangement of top waste the poor data (including unknown collection efficiencies), rather
layers) causing the leaching of substances from waste newly par- conservative estimates for methane production at the landfill
ticipating in the water flow (Laner et al., 2011b). The formulation
have been developed using the LandGem model (US EPA, 2005)
of the emission models for NH4-N, Cl and COD are given in
with a methane generation potential (L0) of 90 m Mg1 waste and
Table 1. Parameter values are chosen in a plausible range (Laner
a methane generation rate (k) of 0.035 and 0.050 respectively.
et al., 2011b) with the priority to fit the model to the monitoring
data. While the period before final cover installation is used for Figure 4 illustrates that both estimated methane generation curves
model calibration only (determination of parameters based on the are well above methane collection data (even after final cover
observed concentration trends), the model formulation for the installation, when collection efficiency is supposed to be high,
period after final cover construction is the basis for emission sce- i.e. >80%). Hence, they represent an upper boundary for methane
nario estimates. generation rather than a realistic estimate (especially considering
In contrast to leachate data, landfill gas data are scarce and of the minimization of water infiltration after final cover, i.e. within
poor quality at the site. A gas collection (gas wells) and treatment the first year leachate generation decreased by an order of magni-
(flare) system was installed at the landfill and operated from tude). Therefore, the methane production rates shown in Figure 4
1989 to 1995, but the collected amount and composition of land- are treated as worst case scenarios and no further scenarios
fill gas was only documented until 1991 (Figure 4). After 1995 are derived to evaluate future methane generation and potential
there was no active gas management (one landfill gas extraction emission rates.

Table 1. Model formulation and parameters to estimate the concentrations of ammonia-nitrogen (NH4-N), chloride (Cl) and
chemical oxygen demand (COD).

c 0,leach c 0,org
Formulaa (
h )t (
h )t
c (t ) = c 0,leach e
m0,leach S + m0,org S
c 0,org e

General model parameters h = 4 (highly heterogeneous water flow)

L/S before final cover = 0.0196 l kg1 DM year1 (also used for the projections of
organic degradation)
Parameters for Cl After closure:
m0,leach = 1650 mg kg1 DM; c0,leach = 1200 mg l1
After final cover:
m0,leach = 1360 mg kg1 DM; c0,leach = 990 mg l1b
Parameters for NH4-N After closure:
m0,leach = 50 mg kg1 DM; c0,leach = 300 mg l1
m0,org = 1700 mg kg1 DM [different degradation half-lives for different N pools: 8 yrs
(170 mg kg1), 30 yrs (850 mg kg1) and 70 yrs (680 mg kg1)]; c0,org = 430 mg l1
After final cover:
m0,leach = 40 mg kg1 DM; c0,leach = 220 mg l1b
m0,org = 1570 mg kg1 DM [different degradation half-lives for different N pools: 8 yrs
(140 mg/kg), 30 yrs (780 mg/kg) and 70 yrs (650 mg/kg)]; c0,org = 460 mg/l;
Parameters for COD After closure:
m0,leach = 300 mg kg1 DM; c0,leach = 600 mg l1
m0,org = 1800 mg kg1 DM [different degradation half-lives for different Corg pools: 8 yrs
(180 mg kg1), 30 yrs (900 mg kg1) and 70 yrs (720 mg kg1)]; c0,org = 550 mg l1
After final cover:
m0,leach = 230 mg kg1 DM; c0,leach = 450 mg l1b
m0,org = 1660 mg kg1 DM [different degradation half-lives for different Corg pools: 8
yrs (140 mg/kg), 30 yrs (820 mg/kg) and 70 yrs (690 mg/kg)]; c0,org = 490 mg/l;
aThe second term (c(t)
org) is only relevant for NH4-N and COD. In the case of several fractions of organic matter being considered (different
degradation half-lives), there will be additional terms for each fraction considered.
0,leach is estimated assuming a constant ratio between m0,leach and c0,leach, and in consideration of concentration increases because of reduced
leachate generation.
Caption: c(t), substance concentration at time t (mg l1); t, time after intensive reactor phase (i.e. gas generation has dropped significantly
and leachate concentrations exhibit a downward trend, in years); c0,leach, substance concentration readily leachable after the intensive reactor
phase (mg l1); m0,leach, leachable fraction of mobilizable substances (mg kg1 DM); h, heterogeneity factor of water flow (dimensionless); L/S,
change in the deposited waste L/S ratio per year (l kg1 DM year1); c0,org, substance concentration made available for leaching via continuing
degradation processes directly after the intensive reactor phase (mg l1); m0,org, fraction of mobilizable substances still being made available
via organic degradation (mg kg1 DM).

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94 Waste Management & Research 30(9) Supplement

Figure 3. Concentrations of ammonia-nitrogen (NH4-N), chloride (Cl) and chemical oxygen demand (COD) in the leachate after
landfill closure (from 1991) expressed as a function of the liquid-to-solid ratio (L/S) [measurements and model estimates for the
whole landfilldifferent to Laner et al. (2011b), who considered data relating to one compartment of Breitenau landfill only].

Figure 4. Methane collection data, theoretical methane production according to model estimates (LandGem) and suggested
landfill gas criteria (tolerable flux into the top cover and tolerable flux into the atmosphere).

Scenario analysis. Landfill emissions are estimated using landfill throughout the modeling period of 300 years. Hence,
emission scenarios which are based on the developed emission 0.5% of annual precipitation (633 mm yr1) infiltrates into the
models for leachate (Figure 3) and gas (Figure 4), and on assump- waste, and 99% of the generated leachate is retained at the land-
tions concerning the future conditions in and around the landfill. fill base (1% is released to the subsurface) and drains gravitation-
As no drastic change of release mechanisms and no abrupt re- ally to a leachate collection tank outside the landfill. The emission
distribution of water flow paths are expected at the site during the estimates for the status quo are shown in Figure 5 (left) with
next decades to centuries, the emission estimates for the Breit- respect to the leachate parameters Cl, NH4-N and COD. Owing to
enau landfill focus on scenarios addressing different deteriora- the minimal water infiltration rate, the concentrations decrease
tion patterns of the technical barrier system (see Table 2). The slowly in the leachate and approximately halve during the mod-
base line year for all scenarios is 2010 (i.e. time of evaluation) eling period of 300 years. The total substance loads in the lea-
and the investigation period is set arbitrarily to 300 years. chate range between 25 kg yr1 (NH4-N) and 36 kg yr1 (Cl) at the
The Status quo scenario is founded on constant (optimal) beginning, and decrease at the same rate as the concentrations
technical barrier performance at the top and at the bottom of the (constant infiltration rate is assumed). One percent of the

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Laner et al. 95

Table 2. Layouts of the emission scenarios considered to evaluate the long-term pollution hazard of the Breitenau landfill

Scenario Top cover system Base lining system

Status quo Best performance Best performance
Status quo* Best performance Ineffective
Scenario A Gradual decrease of barrier performance Gradual decrease of barrier performance
Scenario A* Gradual decrease of barrier performance Ineffective
Scenario B Ineffective Ineffective

Figure 5. Scenario-based leachate emissions (concentrations and loads) of ammonia-nitrogen (NH4-N), chloride (Cl) and
chemical oxygen demand (COD).

substance loads in the leachate are released to the subsurface time due to increasing water infiltration rates. The maximum
(right vertical axis in Figure 5, bottom left) and 99% is directed substance loads in the leachate amount for 106166 kg yr1 and
to the leachate collection tank. occur after 60 years (COD), 70 years (Cl) and 130 years (NH4-N)
As the status quo* scenario assumes an ineffective technical respectively. The maximum loads released to the subsurface take
barrier at the landfill base (see Table 2), the total substance loads place later during the scenario, after 80 years for Cl and after 150
of Cl, NH4-N and COD in the leachate are released to the subsur- years for NH4-N and COD.
face (Figure 5, bottom left). Scenario A* differs from Scenario A by assuming an ineffec-
Scenario A investigates the effect of a gradual decrease of tive barrier at the landfill base. Therefore, the released substance
technical barrier performance at the top and at the landfill base on loads to the subsurface during Scenario A* are equal to the total
the leachate emissions. The future performance of the contain- substance loads in the leachate of Scenario A (Figure 5, bottom
ment systems is evaluated using a procedure addressing the best center).
and worst service levels of the system, the current performance Scenario B reflects the worst case with respect to contain-
of the system, the construction and design of the barriers, and ment performance, as 25% of the annual precipitation infil-
different factors significant to the long-term barrier functioning trates into the waste body (infiltration rate observed during
[for details see Laner et al. (2011b)]. For the Breitenau landfill, temporary cover with earthen material) and all the generated
the evaluation results in a leachate generation rate of 3.2 mm yr1 leachate is released to the subsurface (see Table 2). Consequently,
at the beginning (best performance level), 32 mm yr1 after 100 the concentrations in the leachate decrease rapidly during this
years, 77 mm yr1 after 200 years and 107 mm yr1 after 300 scenario (see Figure 5, right) and fall below 100 mg l1 within
years. The respective leachate release rates to the subsurface are 30 years for Cl and within 50 years for NH4-N and COD. The
0.03 mm yr1 at the beginning, 3.2 mm yr1 after 100 years, 34 corresponding substance loads are initially very high (1230 kg
mm yr1 after 200 years and 59 mm yr1 after 300 years. The NH4-N yr1, 1685 kg COD yr1 and 1780 kg Cl yr1) decreas-
estimated concentrations and substance loads in the leachate for ing to levels of around 55 kg yr1 for NH4-N and COD and to
Scenario A are shown in Figure 5 (center). While concentrations 0.6 kg yr1 in case of Cl after 100 years (see Figure 5, bottom
decrease slowly at the beginning the decrease accelerates with right).

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96 Waste Management & Research 30(9) Supplement

Pollutant migration transport models are used. Vadose zone transport is described
via the one-dimensional transport developed by Schneider and
The landfill was built in a former gravel pit and is located in the Stfen (2004) or using a mass balance approach based on maxi-
Steinfeldschotter quarternary gravel terrace formed during the mum pollutant loads. Also, groundwater pollutant transport is
Wrm ice age. The geologic strata below the landfill therefore evaluated by applying a mass balance approach. Apart from dif-
consists mainly of gravel with low contents of sand and silt fusion and longitudinal dispersion in the vadose zone and dilu-
(local conglomerations). The distance between the landfill base tion in the groundwater, no processes potentially attenuating
and the maximum groundwater levels which have been observed pollutant concentrations (i.e. no transversal dispersion, no sorp-
in the monitoring wells adjacent to the landfill upstream (one tion, and no transformation) are considered at the site, with the
well) and downstream (three wells) is slightly more than 4 m. It exception of ammonia nitrogen, as nitrification of ammonia in
is made up of two soil layers, a thin sandy, silty gravel layer (0.1 the oxygen-rich groundwater (O2 saturation around 80%) may
m thickness) below the landfill base followed by a loamy gravel occur to a certain extent. This is reflected by the quality standard
layer with lower sand and silt contents (4.0 m thickness). The applied at PoC 3 relating to nitrate-nitrogen in addition to the
thickness of the aquifer is around 15 m with conglomerated quality standard relating to NH4-N in the groundwater (Table 4).
loamy gravel at the bottom forming the aquitard. The general Substance-specific transport parameters (i.e. diffusion coeffi-
groundwater flow direction below the landfill is southwest to cients) are obtained from the literature (Laner, 2011). Subsurface
northeast, the average filter velocity in the groundwater is 300 m transport of COD is evaluated exclusively using the mass balance
yr1 and the contaminated width (cross section through the land- approach, as the mixture of organic compounds summarized as
fill perpendicular to groundwater flow) is 150 m. A schematic COD could not be assigned representative substance-specific
illustration of the leachate pathway in the subsurface is shown transport parameters (Table 3).
in Figure 6. Emissions to the subsurface percolate through the The scenario- and substance-specific AFs resulting from the
vadose zone to reach the PoC 1 located above the groundwater transport modeling are shown in Table 3. According to the
surface. PoC 2 reflects the emission-induced maximum pol- results in Table 3 the maximum concentration of chloride for
lutant concentration after leachate mixing with groundwater, Scenario A decreases by a factor of 1.8 between the landfill
assuming homogenous mixing along the contaminated width base and PoC 1 (above the groundwater surface), reducing the
and over a depth of 0.5 m. PoC 3 is located 100 m downstream chloride concentration from 990 mg l1 at the source to 565 mg
of PoC 2, with dilution between PoC 2 and PoC 3 taking place l1 at PoC 1. As dilution due to mixing of groundwater and
solely as a result of local groundwater recharge (15% of annual leachate is reflected by the AFs at PoC 2, AF values decrease
precipitation). At PoC 4 the maximum pollutant concentration for scenarios with higher leachate release rates. Dilution due to
due to the release from the landfill is averaged for the top 5 m of local groundwater recharge (PoC 2 PoC 3) has only a minor
the aquifer (dilution). It may be interesting to evaluate the effect effect on pollutant concentrations, while homogeneously
of a pollutant release on groundwater withdrawal in PoC4 via a mixing the pollutants in the top 5 m of the groundwater body
well from the top third of the groundwater stream. In order to (PoC 3 PoC 4) reduces the maximum pollutant concentra-
account for the poor resolution of available data (e.g. soil prop- tions by factors between 6.5 and 6.9. The results from the trans-
erties, flow velocities) and the assumptions in the modeling port modeling are subsequently used to determine completion
(e.g. homogeneous release pattern), simple and conservative criteria for landfill leachate.

Table 3. Attenuation factors (AF) calculated for subsurface transport of chloride (Cl), ammonia-nitrogenNH4-N and chemical
oxygen demand (COD) based on the scenario-based emission estimates. Attenuation factors relate to specific sections of the
transport pathway in the subsurface. For instance, the AF at PoC 2 describes the reduction of the maximum concentration
between PoC 1 and PoC 2. Consequently, the total attenuation factor between the landfill base and PoC 3 for chloride in
Scenario A* would be 147.5 (=1.683.81.1)

Status quo Status quo* Scenario A Scenario A* Scenario B

PoC 1 AFCl: 20 AFCl: 1 AFCl 1.8
a: AFCl 1.6
a: AFCl: 1
AFNH4-N: 20 AFNH4-N: 1 AFNH4-Na: 4.3 AFNH4-Na: 3.4 AFNH4-N: 1
AFCODa: 1.4 AFCODa: 1 AFCODa: 5.8 AFCODa: 1.8 AFCODa: 1
PoC 2 AF: 61950 AF: 620.5 AFCl: 265.5 AFCl: 83.8 AF: 13.5
AFNH4-N: 84.5 AFNH4-N: 43.7
AFCOD: 92.1 AFCOD: 97,8
PoC 3 AF: 1.1 AF: 1.1 AF: 1.1 AF: 1.1 AF: 1.1
PoC 4 AF: 6.9 AF: 6.9 AF: 6.9 AF: 6.8 AF: 6.5
aAttenuation factor for vadose zone transport (between landfill base and PoC 1) has been calculated using the concentration in the leachate at

the time of maximum emission load to the subsurface (mass balance approach).

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Laner et al. 97

Table 4. Completion criteria for chloride (Cl), ammonia-nitrogen (NH4-N) and chemical oxygen demand (COD) in the leachate
of the Breitenau landfill

Parameter Compliance Status quo Status quo* Scenario A Scenario A* Scenario B

criterion at PoC 3
[mg l1] C0 [mg l1] C0 [mg l1] C0 [mg l1] C0 [mg l1] C0 [mg l1]
Cl 200 >10 000 >10 000 >10 000 >10 000 2872
NH4-N 0.5 >10 000 331 195 78 7
COD 5.0 >10 000 3309 2840 913 72
NO3-Na 1.13 >10 000 748 441 177 16
aComplete nitrification of NH -N is considered in the groundwater: the quality criteria for nitrate at PoC 3 is set to 5 mg l1, which would
increase the total NO3 concentration in the groundwater leachate plume by around 50% to a bit below 15 mg l1 (the drinking water limit
for nitrate is 50 mg l1); the concentration of oxygen in the groundwater upstream of the landfill is >8 mg l1 resulting in a minimum annual
oxygen load of 180 kg O2 yr1 flowing into the leachate mixing zone. In case of Scenario A*, approximately 50% of the oxygen would be depleted
because of the nitrification of ammonium-nitrogen contained in the leachate.

Figure 6. Schematic illustration of the pollutant transport pathway in the subsurface environment at the Breitenau landfill.

Completion criteria and potential concentrations are above tolerable concentration levels for the
aftercare durations scenarios status quo*, A, A* and B if no nitrification is assumed
and for the scenarios A, A* and B if nitrification is taken into
Completion criteria. The leachate-related completion criteria account. With scenario A* (gradual deterioration of top cover
are calculated by applying Austrian drinking water quality stan- system and ineffective technical barrier at the landfill base) cho-
dards (TVW, 2001) as compliance criteria at PoC 3. However, the sen as the significant long-term emission scenario at the site, the
optional quality standard for nitrate-nitrogen (if nitrification in tolerable concentration of NH4-N in the landfill leachate is 78
the groundwater is to be considered) is based on the nitrate con- mg l1 (no nitrification) or 177 mg l1 (considering nitrification)
centrations of the upstream groundwater and is limited to a maxi- (see Table 4). Concentrations of NH4-N observed currently in the
mum increase of nitrate concentrations in the groundwater plume leachate are higher by a factor of 27 than tolerable levels.
by 50%, which corresponds to 5 mg NO3 l1 (Table 4). PoC 3 is For landfill gas, completion criteria are defined for the meth-
chosen as the pollutant concentrations in the leachate plume
ane flux into the top cover system and for the methane flux into
(thickness of 0.5 m) shall comply with drinking water quality
the atmosphere. The flux criterion for the former is 0.5 l CH4 m2
standards at the property border, notwithstanding the fact that the
h1 (4.2 m CH4 m2 yr1) and for the latter 0.05 l CH4 m2 h1
groundwater stream is directed towards a forest without current,
or planned, groundwater uses and no residential building within (0.42 m CH4 m2 yr1). Consequently, if the inflow criterion is
a distance of 1.5 km. The consequent maximum tolerable con- applied, it has to be demonstrated that the fraction of methane
centrations of Cl, NH4-N (with an additional calculation to con- oxidation in the top cover is 90% or above.
sider nitrification), and COD in the leachate are presented in Apart from the emission-related completion criteria above,
Table 4 for each emission scenario. In any case, NH4-N can be further completion criteria are implied by the choice of the long-
identified as the most critical leachate parameter, as the observed term emission scenario: long-term geotechnical stability of the

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98 Waste Management & Research 30(9) Supplement

landfill; surveillance of the cover to exclude damages and rapid expected to be necessary for centuries, as NH4-N concentrations
deterioration, use restrictions of the site to avoid intrusion, etc.; in the leachate will not comply over such time periods with the
and monitoring of ambient concentrations in the environment. determined completion criteria (even if nitrification is considered
to occur in the groundwater). While aftercare measures address-
Potential aftercare durations. Three different aftercare strate- ing leachate emissions need to be maintained at the site for many
gies are compared to illustrate the effect of aftercare measures on decades to centuries, landfill gas emissions are expected to be
leachate emissions. If top cover performance is kept constant at environmentally insignificant within several decades, especially
the best level (0.5% of annual precipitation infiltrate into the
if methane oxidation in the cover can be demonstrated to mitigate
landfill) during the whole aftercare period, it will take more than
negative effects from landfill gas production. As the extent of
500 years until tolerable concentrations of NH4-N in the leachate
leachate-related aftercare measures is dominated primarily by the
can be reached (no matter if nitrification in the groundwater is
considered or not). If water infiltration through the top cover is persistent presence of ammonia in the leachate at high concentra-
kept at the level of 5% of annual precipitation during aftercare tions, low-intensity and low-technology solutions for the long-
[the legally-required maximum infiltration rate after final cover term treatment of ammonia, as well as the demonstration of
in Austria (DVO 2008)], it will take approximately 270 years (no natural attenuation mitigating a potential release of ammonia to
nitrification) or 110 years (nitrification), respectively, to reach the subsurface may be substantial elements of the long-term
tolerable NH4-N levels in the leachate. Finally, if the same maxi- management concept at the Breitenau landfill.
mum infiltration rate as during the period of temporary cover Following up on the evaluation, monitoring is necessary in the
(25% of annual precipitation infiltrate into the landfill) is future to validate the models underlying the emission scenarios
allowed for, the concentrations of NH4-N are expected to comply (e.g. leachate emission model) and to adapt the measurement fre-
with leachate criteria within 55 years (no nitrification) or 20
quency and parameter selection to suit the data requirements of
years (nitrification) respectively. Hence, depending on the after-
the evaluation. In general, this means replacing cost-intensive
care management it may take between 20 and >500 years to
measurement campaigns by informed measurements reflecting
comply with leachate completion criteria for NH4-N, even if full
nitrification of (potentially released) ammonia is assumed in the the emission status of the landfill restricted to environmentally-
groundwater at the site. However, in order to consider nitrifica- significant factors. On the one hand, the site evaluation and con-
tion in the groundwater it would have to be demonstrated for the sequent monitoring will allow gathering information required to
site, provided that authorities would consent to using a part of demonstrate aftercare completion to authorities from early on
the groundwater as a potential long-term treatment filter. In any during aftercare. On the other hand, goal-oriented (i.e. related to
case, leachate-related aftercare durations at the Breitenau landfill the desired state of the landfill at the end of aftercare) monitoring
lie in the range of centuries based on the current management will allow for the effective use of aftercare funds with respect to
strategy. the long management periods required at MSW landfills.
With respect to landfill gas, after 30 years (in 2040) the worst In view of the potentially long aftercare periods at closed
case estimates (Figure 4) on future methane production rates MSW landfills, increasing attention should be given to research
range below the inflow criterion. If methane oxidation in the top about the lasting effect of enhanced emission reduction meas-
cover was not considered, the emission criterion could be met ures after landfill closure (e.g. in situ aeration, flushing) and to
after 65 (lower curve in Figure 4) to 100 years (upper curve in low-intensity technologies suitable for dealing with residual
Figure 4) respectively. In any case, it can be expected that meth- emissions persisting at the landfill for long time (e.g. methane
ane emissions will become environmentally insignificant while oxidation in bio-active covers or extensive leachate treatment
aftercare measures will be still necessary to control and manage concepts especially addressing NH4-N). As the presented meth-
leachate emissions at the site. odology allows for linking the intensity and duration of after-
care in view of the conditions at the landfill, it forms a valuable
Discussion and conclusion basis to plan and optimize landfill aftercare and therefore enable
environmentally-protective, cost-effective long-term landfill
The evaluation of aftercare completion is based on the environ- management. To highlight the utility of the methodology as a
mental risks associated with a closed landfill in the absence of decision support tool on aftercare management and completion,
aftercare. As substantial uncertainty is inherent in an evaluation case studies including regulatory review and acceptance are
of long-term environmental impacts, the presented methodology needed.
builds on scenario-based assessments to determine the environ-
mentally-tolerable state of the landfill at the end of aftercare. Acknowledgements
Aftercare completion criteria are derived based on the combina-
The authors are grateful to the Austrian Ministry of Agriculture
tion of different models and include tolerable emission levels at and Forestry, Environment and Water Management as well as the
the site, as well as criteria associated with the long-term emis- Austrian Federal States for supporting research related to this work.
sion scenario underlying the evaluation.
The application of the methodology is illustrated for the Funding
Breitenau landfill, a closed MSW landfill around 60 km south of This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in
Vienna. At the site, leachate-related aftercare measures are the public, commercial of not-for-profit sectors.

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Laner et al. 99

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