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BIOTIC LANDFILL COVER TREATMENTS FOR MITIGATING

METHANE EMISSIONS

HELENE HILGER1∗ and MARION HUMER2
1 Department of Civil Engineering, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, Charlotte, North
Carolina, U.S.A.; 2 Department of Waste Management, University of Agricultural Sciences Vienna,
Vienna, Austria
(∗ author for correspondence, e-mail: hhilger@uncc.edu)

Abstract. Landfill methane (CH4 ) emissions have been cited as one of the anthropogenic gas
releases that can and should be controlled to reduce global climate change. This article reviews
recent research that identifies ways to enhance microbial consumption of the gas in the aerobic
portion of a landfill cover. Use of these methods can augment CH4 emission reductions achieved
by gas collection or provide a sole means to consume CH4 at small landfills that do not have active
gas collection systems. Field studies indicate that high levels of CH4 removal can be achieved by
optimizing natural soil microbial processes. Further, during biotic conversion, not all of the CH4
carbon is converted to carbon dioxide (CO2 ) gas and released to the atmosphere; some of it will be
sequestered in microbial biomass. Because biotic covers can employ residuals from other municipal
processes, financial benefits can also accrue from avoided costs for residuals disposal.

Keywords: compost, landfills, landfill biocover, methane oxidation, methanotrophs

1. Introduction

Solid waste management options have expanded over the last several decades, but
landfilling remains the dominant practice in many parts of the world (USEPA,
1997). A number of design advances have reduced the environmental impacts of
new landfills and concomitant public concerns, but landfills continue to require
technical and regulatory attention. This paper describes some innovative and low-
cost biological methods to mitigate emissions associated with the gases produced
in landfills. First the source and pollutional effects of some landfill gases are de-
scribed, then the key features of biological control are presented, and finally results
from an ongoing field test are described and discussed in the context of technology
options and policy decisions.

2. Landfill Gases and Pollution

When organic wastes are degraded, carbon dioxide (CO2 ) and methane (CH4 ) are
produced. Although these originate deep in the landfill, they can readily migrate

Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 84: 71–84, 2003.
© 2003 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.

and con- tinued anthropogenic additions are expected to enhance climate change by about 55%. present in the atmosphere at 360 parts per million by volume (ppmv). Yet even at this trace level. Based on 1997 measures. landfills have been singled out among the major CH4 sources (natural gas systems. National and global source estimates were imprecise and predictions varied widely. According to the rule. HILGER AND M. 1994). and over a 100 yr span.. and as much as 19% of the increase can be attributed to landfill emissions (IPCC. GWP is an index used to compare the relative tendency of different gases to cause climate change. In countries where solid waste landfilling is highly regulated. Methane.S. The reason relates to the relative climate change potential of CO2 and CH4 . so that even after clos- ure. 1993). HUMER to the surface and enter the atmosphere. 1999). Since both of these gases contribute to global climate change. While some of the gas escapes capture. However. 1996). landfills are estimated to be the largest source (37%) of anthropogenic CH4 emissions in the U. In the U. second only to CO2 in its global warming impacts (IPCC. gas collection systems can significantly reduce landfill gas emissions. 1996). coal mining. Although CO2 and CH4 are produced in about equal amounts during waste de- gradation. Federal Register. NMOCs) emitted from landfills.7 ppmv. and India) (USEPA. 1995).72 H. It is now estimated that as much as 70% of the global CH4 emissions are anthropogenic. 1999a. USEPA. requirements for gas collection at new and existing landfills are based on . the GWP of one gram of CH4 is 21-fold greater than an equal mass of CO2 (IPCC.S. The biochemical reactions that produce them typically continue long after a landfill is capped. methane reductions can be accomplished for less cost than equivalent CO2 reductions (Reilly. When mitigation strategies for global climate change were first considered. Further. economic analyses show that in some cases. which took effect in 1997 and addressed both CH4 and other volatile compounds (non- methane organic compounds. The Clean Air Act was amended to include the Landfill Rule (U.. on the other hand.S. CH4 sources and emission rates were poorly characterized. is a well-known greenhouse gas. exists in the atmosphere at only 1.(which is the 4th largest emitter behind China. and agriculture) for emission reduction requirements. emissions can continue (Tchobanoglous et al. The potency of CH4 additions relates to their greenhouse warming potential (GWP). 1998). 1996). several initiat- ives have been undertaken to reduce landfill CH4 emissions. Carbon dioxide. Subsequent re- search and analysis have clarified some of the major global CH4 sources and sinks and helped to identify why atmospheric CH4 levels have doubled in the last two centuries after having been stable for the previous several thousand years (Graedel and Crutzen. Russia. 1989). human additions to existing concentrations are expected to be responsible for 17% of enhanced climate change. gas collection systems are recommended and sometimes required at landfills. the CH4 is of greater concern. contributions from the major anthropogenic sources of CO2 (fuel and biomass burning) are so large as to make those from landfills insignificant (McKinney and Schoch.

1999. If. 1991). Once underway. Biological Mitigation of Landfill Methane Emissions Microbial CH4 consumption is one of only a few biogeochemical sinks for re- moving CH4 from the atmosphere (Topp and Hanson. In some parts of the globe. and gain public support. In contrast to the tighter landfill controls appearing in the U. but some of the gas will escape capture. as predicted. other countries are making only modest use of landfills. expects its landfill CH4 emissions to fall by little more than 20% from 1997 levels. so that not all of the approximately 2200 landfills nationwide will be affected (USEPA. Thus. 1996). CEC. While all of these steps will likely be effective. implement. but such piles present health and safety problems and with time will likely be replaced with sanitary landfills that produce CH4 . BIOTIC LANDFILL COVER TREATMENTS FOR MITIGATING METHANE EMISSIONS 73 size and emission test results. program management and public compliance. will reduce overall emis- sions. and the European Union. and Europe.6 Tg to 9. Both entities have adopted the approach of increasing landfill gas collection and making systematic reductions in the quantity of biodegradable wastes that is buried. Total global CH4 emissions from landfills are expected to increase by 2025. Many urban centers in the developing world still rely on open dumps for solid waste disposal (World Resources Institute. some of the collected gas is put to direct use as fuel or converted to electricity and the remainder flared.S. and there are many existing sites where new regulations will have little impact.S. gas collection in the U. Compliance with these more stringent regulations will require that some form of thermal or biological pretreatment of wastes occurs before land- filling. 1997). 3. with contributions from Asia and Eastern Europe rising to equal those of the U. The expected rise in global landfill CH4 emissions would appear to justify the promotion of cost-effective methods for mitigating anthropogenic CH4 releases into the atmosphere. the U. 1999. It generally occurs . landfills are the first (48%) and second (31%) largest sources of anthropogenic CH4 respectively (NETC. Goldstein and Madtes. 2000). Despite the Landfill Rule. the improvement from dumps to landfills will likely add to the CH4 burden in the atmosphere.S.S.K. similar steps are being taken to curtail emissions. they will require time to plan. this rule is expected to result in a decline of landfill CH4 emissions from their 1997 level of 11. 1997). their success will be constrained by economics. solid waste management practices are likely to increase rather than decrease CH4 emission rates. because improved sanitation will first lead to waste coverage and only later to gas collection. Certainly. in the absence of gas collection. In Europe. and Western Europe (Meadows. In the U. Other European countries like Germany and Austria have set quantitative limits on the allowable total organic carbon (TOC) of landfilled wastes to minimize landfill CH4 genera- tion potential.1 Tg by 2010 (USEPA 1999). Methane production may be lower at these sites because more aeration is possible.

temperate.118 NH4 + → (1) → 0. a subset of a highly diverse group of bacteria called methylotrophs that can metabolize C-1 compounds such as methane.. Large.74 H. It has been detec- ted throughout the upper portion of landfill cover soil (Jones and Nedwell. 1986). 1990. and desert soils (Keller et al. 1983. 1983. the relative meta- bolic efficiency depends not only on the path but also on the enzymatic process common to both paths that converts CH4 methane to CH3 OH (Leak and Dalton. some can also produce a soluble form (sMMO) whose synthesis is linked to low copper concentrations.. Bedard and Knowles.50 O2 + 0.. Bedard and Knowles. 1989). Some of the CH4 consumed by methanotrophs is oxidized to CO2 and water for energy yield.57 O2 + 0.102 H+ Both paths are initiated with the conversion of CH4 to methanol (CH3 OH).118(C4 H8 O2 N) + 0. Hanson and Hanson. efforts to demonstrate this prediction have been inconclusive. HILGER AND M. Although the RuMP path is theoretically more efficient (Brock and Madigan. Methanotrophs capable of producing sMMO are particularly valuable in landfill covers because the enzyme is sufficiently non-specific to catalyze the addition of .102(C4 H8 O2 N) + 0. 1996) and biochemistry (Large. 1996).118 H+ CH4 + 1. Their diversity (Whittenbury et al. It is typically accomplished by methanotrophs.593 CO2 + 1.529 CO2 + 1. 1990.75 H2 O + 0. most of its uptake is performed by aerobes. most notably ammonia oxidizers (Jones and Morita. 1991). 1970. 1986. Whalen et al. while another fraction is incorporated into biomass. methanol.. Born et al. 1989. 1996). 1990). 1993. where C4 H8 O2 N represents microbial biomass. Two pathways have been identified among methanotrophs for conversion of methane to energy and biomass: the ribulose monophosphate path (RuMP) and the serine path (Anthony 1982). respectively. 1991) have been extensively reviewed. arctic. 1978. and even some yeast that can oxidize CH4 (Wolf and Hanson. While all methanotrophs can synthesize a particulate or membrane-bound form (pMMO) of the enzyme. 1993). Anthony. and methanotrophs have been found in tropical. because while CH4 is generated in anaerobic regions. Adamsen and King. CH4 + 1. Striegl et al. The stoichiometric equations summarizing the oxygen and nitrogen demands of the RuMP and serine paths are shown in Equations 1 and 2. and methylamines (Hanson and Hanson. HUMER at an interface of aerobic and anaerobic zones. 1983). High copper availability results in the expression of pMMO. Microbial CH4 uptake occurs readily in a variety of ecosystems (Hanson and Hanson. which yields higher growth efficiency than sMMO.71 H2 O + 0.. and it could be optimized and exploited to mitigate landfill CH4 emissions. There are also a number of other bacteria. Evidently. a re- action that is mediated by the methane monooxygenase enzyme (MMO). 1992. Whalen and Reeburgh.102 NH4 + → (2) → 0.

1996. Borjesson and Svensson. this process leads to degradation of some volatile organic compounds that rise from the waste layers (Kjeldsen et al. Sub- sequent studies have shown that much higher uptake rates are possible in landfill soil (Williams et al. Borjesson and Svensson. Chanton and Liptay. 1985). 1990. 1996. Liptay et al. although there is still uncertainty about the exact percentage to use in the models.. 2000). 1998.. Czepiel.. 1996. chloroform. where the phenomenon had previously been disregarded. 1997. taking up more CH4 than is emitted from the landfill (Bogner et al. 1997. 1998.. 2000. BIOTIC LANDFILL COVER TREATMENTS FOR MITIGATING METHANE EMISSIONS 75 oxygen to other substrates such as trichloroethylene. Moisture contents reported to be optimum for CH4 uptake in landfill cover soils range from 10–20% (Whalen et al. One early report indicated that soil microbes removed 10% of the CH4 gas fed continuously to a laboratory column filled with landfill soil (Mancinelli and McKay... Field studies have shown that there is wide variation in CH4 consumption rates both within and between landfill sites. and pH. 1995. 1999b). Czepiel et al. Literature values for whole landfill CH4 removal rates range from 10 to almost 100% (Whalen et al. 1996). Kightley et al. and the variability has been largely attributed to seasonal climate change. 1998. Bergamaschi et al.. 2001). Borjesson et al. The critical factor appears to be the amount of soil pore volume available for gas exchange at different moisture contents.. Recent laboratory incubations showed . 1996. Czepiel et al. soil properties such as texture and soil gas composition. 2001). 1982). In addition to improving model precision... Hilger et al. soil nutrient content. CH4 must reach the microbes by aqueous diffusion. Liptay et al. landfill covers have actually been reported to act as a net sink for atmospheric CH4 . Updated models estimate that about 10% of the landfill CH4 generated is removed biotically and not released to the atmosphere (USEPA. Field and laboratory studies have been used to invest- igate the role of climate conditions such as moisture content and temperature. and dichloro- methane and transform them into compounds that can be degraded by other mi- croorganisms (Dalton and Sterling. 2000). Chanton and Liptay. 1997).. In landfill soil. 1993. Under high moisture con- ditions.. Such field studies have led to the addition of microbial CH4 uptake as a factor in cli- mate prediction models. Boeckx and VanCleemput. which is much slower than gaseous diffusion. and CH4 concen- trations (Czepiel et al. Jones and Nedwell (1993) speculated that the capacity of cover soil to sustain substantial moisture content throughout its depth is likely to promote more uniform methanotroph distribution and greater opportunity for CH4 removal throughout the cover depth.. Initial investigations of microbial landfill CH4 uptake were conducted to docu- ment its occurrence and explore the conditions that enhanced it. and soil cover management. 1990.. physical heterogeneities in the cover. Where potential emissions are low due to gas collection systems. Humer and Lechner. 1997. experiments to determine the factors that influence microbial CH4 uptake efficiency have been aimed at finding a biosys- tem design that could supplement gas collection or replace leaking caps and mitig- ate landfill CH4 emissions.

with an optimum temperature in the range of 30–36 C (Whalen et al.76 H. When the temperature was reduced to approximately 4 C. 2000). 1999). 1995) were stimulatory. Not surprisingly. vitamins. There is evidence that the sensitivity to temperature change may be muted when the soil is at optimum moisture content (Boeckx. although the response was significantly less than the maximum at 15 C. but when amendments of KNO3. microbial CH4 uptake also shows seasonal temperature de- pendence. trials at 0 C showed no evidence of microbial CH4 consumption (Borjesson et al. 1996). Ammonium addition enhanced CH4 uptake in short-term incubations (Bender and Conrad. Methylomonas sp. and after an adaptation time of about 6 days. which may explain the good temperature adaptability observed. and ammonium). and Methylosinus sp. which was 6. only lime (Hilger et al. HUMER that composted municipal solid waste (MSW) used as landfill cover at moisture contents as high as 45% exceeded performance of soil covers at 17% moisture. Boeckx and VanCleemput. while in long-term incubations it inhibited CH4 consumption in bare soil columns. 1999). When microbial CH4 removal was estimated using field comparisons of 13 C to 12 C isotope ratios. the removal rates were 70–80% of those measured at 18 C.... all of the supplied CH4 (approxim- ately 150 L CH4 m−2 -day) could be removed. Czepiel et al. and the soil with the least organic matter and the lowest gravel content showed the smallest response to temperature change. HILGER AND M. 2001). Methylobacter sp. depending on the characteristics of the cover material (Humer and Lechner.. 2000).2 × 10−4 /(g-d) (Chistophersen et al. and rates increased immediately when the higher temperature was resumed.. the maximum gas was consumed at a rate as high as 9. A highly active and diverse microbial community (Methylococcus sp. added to fresh soil enhance CH4 uptake. 2001). 1996.. 1996). 1996.. The degree of responsiveness to temperature varied among the four landfill soils tested. and had no sustained inhibitory effect when the . ground wheat (high C:N) and sugar beet leaf amendment (low C:N) (Boeckx and VanCleemput.. DeVisschner. 1995. et al. These results suggest that high performance can be maintained at high moisture levels. 2000) and sewage sludge (Kight- ley et al.. sewage sludge. Short-term incubations have shown that nitrate. The tests started at a temperature of 18 C. lime. no stimulation was observed over 2–3 day incubation periods (Hilger et al. Chanton and Liptay.. Although some nutrients enhance CH4 uptake in short-term incubation studies. 2000). 1990. few have been studied in longer incubations.. lime (Hilger et al. Of the latter (phosphate. EDTA or FeSO4 were added to landfill soil after the soil had been incubated for several thousand hours with CH4 . Experiments with compost-filled columns in a climate-controlled chamber show- ed that constant and high CH4 removal was obtained across a temperature range of 5 C to 30 C (Humer and Lechner. the influence of organic matter on moisture holding capacity may account for differences in temperature effects on soil and compost media.) was detected. In laboratory incubations of landfill soil under high headspace CH4 .1 × 10−5 L/(g-d) in soil at the lowest trial temperature of 2 C. Also. 2000).

1994. Microbial CH4 uptake in landfill cover soil occurs readily and is a natural and integral link in the microbial ecology of the landfill. By applying knowledge about the factors that influence this process. 4. BIOTIC LANDFILL COVER TREATMENTS FOR MITIGATING METHANE EMISSIONS 77 column surfaces were grass-covered (Hilger et al. Geosynthetic clay liners were placed around each cell so that lateral CH4 escape is prohibited and the test areas are isolated from one another.. 2000). The test cell covers were constructed in spring 1999 over fill that was actively producing CH4 . 1996. The more porous compost media permitted good gas penetration.5–2 mm) (Bender and Conrad. 1995). with higher rates occurring in coarse sand (61%) than in fine sand or clay (40–41%) (Kightley. 1998). 1993).4 m deep on top of the waste.3 m . Lime addition to soil column simulations of landfill cover raised the soil pH from 6.. Czepiel et al..3 m coarse gravel. so that a 60 cm column of MSW compost was able to remove a CH4 flux equivalent to 400–550 L CH4 (m−2 -d). suggesting that less CH4 removal was occurring there. Proper moisture content.. et al. Although a gas collection system is in place. 2001). Humer and Lechner. 2001). Four 25 × 25 m test covers are being monitored and compared to a 25 × 25 m control site with no cover material.3 m compacted loam. All cells contain 15 m of waste that was deposited during 1975 to 1995. Borjesson et al.9 m deep and underlain by 0. and the presence of a rhizosphere will all contribute to maintenance of a diverse methanotroph population and high CH4 consumption.8) that was underlain by 0. 1999. it can be optimized as a tool for reducing landfill CH4 emissions..3 m deep and underlain by 0.3 to 7... and soil gas concentrations affect microbial CH4 consumption. Bogner et al. (2) layered 0. Humer and Lechner. or (4) well-composted MSW (pH 7. Trial cover designs include sewage sludge composted with woodchips (pH 7. 1999. and fine sand (0. Soil texture. or (3) layered 0. silt. Methane emissions at a reclaimed golf course were greater in regions of low soil pH (Williams et al.2) that was (1) layered 0. CH4 emissions as high of 800 L (m−2 -d) have been detected. A porous medium for good air penetration should allow almost the full cover depth to support methane oxidizers. Methane uptake in laboratory incubations of com- post from municipal solid waste (MSW) and fully matured sewage sludge compost was superior to that in topsoil and humic garden soil (Humer and Lechner.4 and stimulated CH4 uptake (Hilger et al. 1996). particle size. Removal rates are sensitive to CH4 concentration (Bender and Conrad. 2000). Field Trials with Compost Covers The first major field trial of landfill covers designed to optimize biotic CH4 removal is ongoing at a 14 ha operating landfill in Austria (Humer and Lechner. 1995. neutral pH. and on larger sized particles diameters of mineral soils such as clay. overlain by 3–5 m of organic waste that was deposited between summer and winter of 1998. 1997) but not to O2 concentration until it falls to about 3% by volume (Czepiel et al..

. summer.78 H. coarse gravel. Surface emissions were measured with a portable flame ionization detector the first year and with an open wind tunnel device since winter 2000. During the first year (1999). probe readings showed CH4 oxidation occurring near mid-level in the summer and moving lower into the cover in winter. Oxygen penetration was detected through much of the cover at the onset of the trials. Occasionally CH4 emissions also appear at the surrounding slopes of the covers in connection with wind direction and velocity. and it has routinely been detected at the 90 cm depth since winter 1999. HILGER AND M. Gas profiles in sewage sludge compost underlain by gravel. While CH4 is emitted from the surface of the control cell and the cells with compost but without gravel (test plots 1 and 2). no CH4 has been detected above the bottommost gravel layers. Methane concentrations of 50–70% vol/vol (remainder carbon dioxide) were measured in probes in the uncovered control site as well as in probes reaching about 0. high CH4 fluxes were emitted constantly during the first year of monitoring. and vegetation was permitted to colonize the cover material over the course of the trials. no CH4 emissions (but rather high carbon dioxide emissions) have been detected from tests plots 3 and 4 where compost covers are underlain by gravel (Figures 1 and 2). On the control site. Since the first winter. after which broad CH4 emissions declined and were replaced by a few regions of high emissions where fissures formed paths within the waste. HUMER Figure 1. The compost layers were placed without compaction.5–1 m into the waste beneath the different covers. Wind tunnel flux measurements on the control site revealed emission rates of about 840 LCH4 m−2 -d.

and in the deeper test covers. when volunteer vegetation sparsely covered the lysimeter surfaces. Inc. BIOTIC LANDFILL COVER TREATMENTS FOR MITIGATING METHANE EMISSIONS 79 Figure 2. During the second year of monitoring.5 m of yard waste compost underlain by 15–20 cm of tire chips and approximately 15 cm of clay.0–1. The landfill receives about 650 mm of precipitation annually. demonstration and data collection site for biocovers was de- veloped recently at the Outer Loop landfill in Louisville. less leachate accumulation is anticipated. The lysimeters contain cover materials layered to simulate the test cell covers. winter. which allows CH4 oxidation to proceed deeper into the cover. Static chambers will be used to compare emissions from the approximately two acres of compost-covered cells to those with a soil cover. weekly temperatures never fell below 10 ◦ C. and water accu- mulation is being monitored in 300 L lysimeters constructed next to the test cells. The greater depth penetration is advantageous. Kentucky. Also. Layers closer to the surface are subject to drying from wind or solar radiation. because it allows oxidation to proceed in regions where the compost layers can maintain more stable moisture and temperature conditions. has undertaken the project as part of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the USEPA. about 130 mm of leachate were measured in the bins with compost cover. the heat generated from the oxidation reaction is more likely to be retained if oxidation is occurring at greater depth. Waste Man- agement. They are located over cells that are known to be actively producing CH4 . The Outerloop biocovers consist of 1. During the first year. The gas-filled pore volume of the composted sewage sludge cover is greater with depth than that of the MSW compost. more vegetation has become established and with increased transpiration.S. The aim of these trials is to evaluate the longevity and performance of a biocover on . The first U. Gas profiles in sewage sludge compost underlain by gravel.

policy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions appropriately emphasizes the collection and oxidation of landfill CH4 . Composted organics foster good microbial growth and appear to make an effect- ive medium for landfill cover. In summary.. The data also indicate that the surface area and depth of compost over a biocovered landfill cell interact to influence the effects of climate on temperature. not every molecule of CH4 consumed biotically is converted to CO2 . Long used as a biofiltration medium. better temperature modulation. NMOCs and hazardous air pol- lutants (HAPs) emissions. pH. As much as 85% (mole/mole) of the CH4 carbon may be incorporated into biomass and not released to the environment (Borjesson et al. and the CO2 emissions associated with producing an equivalent amount of fossil fuel energy are avoided. 1996). and nutrient supply. When energy capture is not economically feasible.S.S. HILGER AND M. the conversion reduces the GWP of each CH4 molecule to that of one molecule of CO2 . with a GWP of 1. 2001). Discussion U. Biotic CH4 removal systems offer the same CH4 conversion to CO2 as flaring. climate.75 g of CO2 . The greater air penetration. the combustion reaction converts one gram of CH4 with a 100 yr GWP of 21 into 2. HUMER flat and sloped surfaces for the mitigation of CH4 . presumably because it functions to accumulate and distribute the gas into the compost. the cover configuration. any management technique or technology that can optimize this conversion is economically valuable. moisture content. unlike combustion. It has been argued that it is the removal of CH4 during the burn rather than the energy recovered that is the more critical goal. 95% of the benefit is related to climate change and 5% to the energy gain (CEC. When used . Monitoring data from Waste Management’s Outerloop Landfill will allow ex- amination of some of the key interacting variables in a different biocover design in a southern U. On a mass basis.80 H. compost offers a good mix of porosity. the compost properties. Vertical gas profiles and measures of CH4 uptake in soil from core samples will be combined with climate models to predict a hypothetical whole landfill CH4 oxidation rate for a biocover. water-holding capacity. When energy is recovered from the CH4 . Therefore. It will also provide much needed information about the potential for NMOC and HAP uptake in biocovers. Therefore. and local climate conditions should be considered on a site-by-site basis for optimum cover design. The net result is an 87% reduction in GWP. However. The importance of a gravel support layer is evident. the Austrian field tests are confirming that a biological CH4 re- moval system can be an effective tool for reducing landfill CH4 emissions. 5. and gas penetration into the compost at various depths. flaring is recommended. and nutrient supply offered by compost is resulting in 100% CH4 capture compared to 10–50% estimates of CH4 uptake efficiency measured in traditional soil landfill covers.

in I. R. Compost covers can be a polishing tool when paired with active gas collec- tion systems. Appl. The mainten- ance of vegetation on the compost could increase rhizosphere-related microbial activity. They can serve to capture CH4 that escapes collection. Bedard. water-holding capacity. C. on the nature and source of the composted material and the depth at which maximum CH4 uptake occurs. On the other hand. so that overall CH4 consumption is decreased. moisture and gas ratios may influence the optimum depth. Mass. vegetation could compete with CH4 -consuming microbes for nutrients and water. M. such as sewage sludge.: 1982. so that synthetic materials with similar properties but greater durability could be substituted. Butterworth-Heinemann. 485–490. A. ‘Physiology.: 1994. Anthony. characteristics. Anthony. ‘Methane consumption in temperate and subarctic forest soils: rates. P. 53. Boston. 79–109. which may even shift over time as the porosity and other character- istics change as the compost degrades. ‘Methane oxidation activity in various soils and freshwater sed- iments: occurrence. 99. C. compost covers offer an inexpensive cover material where none exists. and Knowles. and provide an activated sink for atmospheric CH4 removal. J. ‘Assimilation of Carbon by Methylotrophs’. R. S. BIOTIC LANDFILL COVER TREATMENTS FOR MITIGATING METHANE EMISSIONS 81 as a thick layer of cover material. vertical profiles. . biochemistry and specific inhibitors of CH4 . vertical zonation.: 1989. Microbiol. Goldberg and J. C. Roken (eds). S. pp. Res.. New York. Rev.: 1993. Subsequent investigations of biotic covers will need to address the durability and active life of the cover material. Academic Press. Geophys. the impacts of combining biotic compost covers with operational factors known to improve microbial CH4 uptake have yet to be investigated. 58–84. or thermal mass of compost could be responsible for much of the observed effect. Finally. 16531–16540. and Conrad. M. Alternat- ively. and through shading. On the other hand. and responses to water and nitrogen’. Microbiol. provide some additional temperature and moisture modulation. it provides the added benefit of avoiding disposal costs for former waste products. Biology of Methylotrophs. Factors such as temperature. G. Higher microbial CH4 consumption in compost relative to soil could be related to nutritional factors provided by the compost or to changes in the microbial ecology and predator-prey relationships that develop. physical factors such as the increased porosity. and distribution on grain size fractions’. Elucidation of the media characteristics that enhance success will also provide valuable information.: 1991. References Adamsen. so that sanitation conditions can be improved even when elaborate caps are not required or are prohibitively expensive. 59. and King. NH+ 4 and CO oxidation by methylotrophs and nitrifiers’. The Biochemistry of Methylotrophs. in part. Identification of the types of methanotrophs selected by current systems may suggest other ways to optimize CH4 uptake. This may depend. Inc. Environ. cometabolize NMOCs. Bender. MSW. and yard waste.

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